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REVIEW

All the Small Things

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos Pete Roggeman
Date Oct 20, 2020
Reading time

Mountain bikers are all, to some extent, obsessed with gear. In many ways the less the better, but all of us realize that at some level, caring about your gear is going to lead to more fun, more speed, more enjoyment. All three if you're lucky. No matter how dedicated you are to a min/max philosophy, this stuff matters. Usually the big stuff: frame, suspension, brakes, tires....after that the list starts to vary depending on who you are. Some of us, though, also care a lot about the smaller details. Whether it's obsession or just attention to the small things, that's where we squeeze those last bits of whatever demon it is we're chasing.

The small things matter, too. So let's take a look at some of the small things that have been making outsized differences to my enjoyment on the bike lately.

Occam Designs Apex

I never realized how bulky spare tubes were until I tried to not have to carry one in the bag around my waist. And while I understand both sides of the argument about strapping a $9 hunk of butyl peace of mind to your beautiful sculpture of a bike frame, and haven't had to put a tube in a flat for over a year, I still can't quit carrying a spare. Frame straps work with varying success depending on the strap and the frame, but re-setting the velcro can be a pain and worse, if mud is involved, as it is for us around here 13 months of the year, it can also scratch your frame if you don't remove it and clean it periodically.

Occam Designs is a small brand based in Colorado, and they've come up with the best strap system for attaching a tube to your frame: the Apex. It uses a BOA dial and a couple of rubber-lined straps inside a strip of cloth called X-Pac to secure a tube and - if you're inclined - a lever or two and some CO2. It holds tight, it's super fast and easy to strap down or remove, it looks good, and it works way better than any other strap I've tried. The BOA wires are not the metallic ones you're used to from shoes - instead they used Dyneema, which is much softer, more like a cloth, to eliminate abrasion. So far, no marking on my frame, but a little protection under them wouldn't hurt.

The Occam Designs Apex costs $34.99 USD and you can buy it directly from them. The mudguards are $14.95. If you get a checkered Apex, the matching mudguard seems mandatory.

Giro Xnetic H2O Waterproof Gloves

Fall means a total mental conversion to wet and cold weather riding, which means the delicate dance of traction over slimy roots and a big adjustment in terms of pre- and post-ride prep and cleanup. Wet hands lead to cold hands, and there are a few ways to solve that problem. One is to just carry 2-3 pairs of gloves on every ride. Another is to try to find a good waterproof glove. Unfortunately that has been a bit of a Holy Grail-level of seeking in recent years. Sure, there are plenty of waterproof gloves out there, but most of them are bulky, meaning you give up a lot in bar control and shift and brake lever feel. We have found a few solutions lately and the first one I want to mention is the Giro Xnetic H2O Waterproof glove. It has a form factor you'll recognize: breathable fibers sandwich a waterproof membrane, meaning they not only keep out the water, but they're also insulated. Yes, they're thicker than your nice, thin, summer gloves, but they also retain most of the dexterity we all need. In use, I did notice a tiny bit of interaction with the multiple layers, but they are really comfortable and so, so much better than other, thicker winter gloves I've tried. The only question mark will be durability in the event of a crash, but it's a price I'll gladly pay in the service of warm hands in crappy conditions.

The Giro Xnetic H2O Glove will run you $50 USD and I think it'll also work well for other wet/cool weather activities like hiking, xc skiing, touring, etc.

Race Face Getta Grips

The one thing I noticed when I started using the Giro Xnetic Gloves was that their slight added bulk made for a different feel on the grips. So I switched to a thinner grip. Race Face's new Getta Grip comes in two thicknesses - 30mm and 33mm. Annoyingly, the sweet spot for me is probably 32mm, but I put the 30mm Gettas on my bars (to replace the Ergon GE1 Evos I was running) and it was a perfect replacement.

Race Face's Getta Grips come in 7 colours for the grips and 3 options for the collars and you can mix and match for...21 flavours. Grips are serious, but they're not that serious - it's absolutely one of the best places to add a little character to your ride. I like the rubber compound - tacky without being sticky - and the tapered sleeve and directional design feels good in the hand. Maybe best of all, the Race Face Getta Grips are very well-priced at $20 USD // $25.99 CAD (half the price of the Ergons they replaced).

Jaybird Vista

I never used to like riding with music. Give me the sound of my breathing, the tires scrabbling around for traction, and let me hear if my derailleur isn't perfectly tuned so I know if my bike needs some work. Jaybird's Vista changed all that. I've been riding solo a bit more often lately, and also listening to lots of podcasts, which is what I prefer to music while riding since it helps alleviate the pain of the climbing trial on Fromme, and I can still hear what's going on around me. Plus, the Vistas work great with only one earphone in, meaning they're safe to use whether in traffic or on trails that have lots of other users.

They also hook up consistently to the phone and hold their bluetooth signal well, are waterproof and designed to withstand impacts (like being ridden over, which I have done), hold a 5-hour charge, and come in a sweet little case that's easy to stash in a small pocket. I also use them for phone calls when working, as well as when wrenching on my bike - and I dare say that that last attribute has had me working on my bikes more often which is a huge side benefit. Finally, they fit well and don't hurt my ears even after hours of use. I vaguely remember wearing them for the entire length of several trans-Atlantic plane rides when doing that was still a thing.

The Jaybird Vista is $179 USD // $239 CAD but they're frequently on sale and right now are $30 off in the US store. At $149 USD, they still aren't cheap, but they are excellent true wireless sports ear buds.

Smith Wildcat

Several years ago, someone decided that MTB shades weren't big enough. I would never have thought we needed to go full shield, but then I tried the Smith Wildcats, and ended up using them all of last fall and winter. They're almost a glasses/goggle hybrid, such is their ample coverage. They fit snugly on my face, which means they will fog up if I go from full gas to full chill without taking them off, but the coverage from roost, water, and branches is so good that I don't even care. I also love Smith's Attack MTB - in fact, lens changes are faster and easier than with the Wildcat - but I only use the Wildcat with the clear lens, anyway. That may be the only downside - they come with two lenses, but if you live and ride in conditions like ours (lots of cloud cover and dense forest canopy) you'll never use the primary lens, which means you're paying for something you don't need. However, if you road ride, ski (XC or backcountry, or spring downhill conditions) or anything else that calls for this much eye coverage, maybe you'll find other uses for that second lens. For me, though, it's all about that clear face shield. And as a bonus, like all Smith eyewear, the Wildcats mesh really well with their helmets, like the Forefront II. I perch them up there, under the visor, for the climb, and pull them off at the top without even worrying about them being fogged up. They're essential equipment around here.

The Smith Wildcat is $209 US / $210 CAD. Well holy shit, there you go, Canadians - snap 'em up while you can!

Blackburn Tallboy Cage

Whenever possible, I like to recommend things that are either total no-brainers, are applicable for use outside of your life as a mountain biker, or just have no downsides. The Blackburn Tallboy Cage is at least two of those things. It is very simple: a bottle cage with extra height to accommodate what has suddenly become the new 'standard' size for a beer. But wait, you're thinking to yourself, a can of beer is, ah, not as girthy as a bike bottle. True! But Blackburn is a step ahead of you, friends. They include a Tallboy Koozie with the cage, so your beer of choice is nestled comfortably in its cage, with a little insulation to boot. Have I done a full-on ride with this sucker yet? No, but a buddy's Devils' Night ride is coming up fast, and this cage is coming along for the fun. I have been running it for over a month and bottles like Camelbak's Podium (my fave) or anything from Purist fits perfectly and won't rattle around or fall out. Win-win!

Blackburn Tallboy Cage - $21.95 USD

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman

Age: 43

Height: 6'1 // 185 cms

Weight: 195 lbs // 88 kg

Inseam: 32" // 81 cm

Bar width: 780 - 800mm // Reach: 475 - 500mm // Dropper: 170 - 190mm

Flats or clipless: both, but mostly flats right now

Trail(s) of choice: Dreamweaver, Boundary, Lower Digger, Ladies Only, 5th Horseman

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Comments

Jotegir
+3 Pete Roggeman AJ Barlas Sean Chee
Lu Kz  - Oct. 19, 2020, 11:16 p.m.

Boourns for featuring the least obnoxious wildcat lens. I feel like anyone in wildcats or similar has a duty to get the brightest mirror lens that they can and maybe even try to get the sun to shine in other people's eyes. 

Many of my riding friends love wildcats or similar. That might explain the previous comment.

And huh. I've never thought of listening to a podcast while riding. That WOULD really improve some of the 1 hour plus climbs. I'm totally going to do that. Not sure I'll pick up the vistas right out of the gate, but thanks for the tip, Pete.

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 20, 2020, 4:21 a.m.

Haha! I hear ya. Sounds like your crew has got a solid Wildcat/Pit Viper vibe. Problem is on the shore you can never wear most of the lenses the Wildcats come with. Even the Chromapop Rose Flash is too dark for all but the sunniest summer days (I tried).

Here's my favourite frame colour though - such a sweet throwback combo.

And yeah, try a podcast while riding. No, you don't need fancy true wireless earbuds, but I tried other options and nothing unlocked the option until I went that route. All other things (wires, older gen Bluetooth, some that didn't fit well or weren't waterproof) didn't work for one reason or another. There are alternatives to the Jaybirds, too, but they're still one of the best intersections of price and features. Unfortunately, I tried some Airpods Pro and they sound amazing but I wouldn't ever want to risk losing one while riding. $$$

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Jotegir
+1 Pete Roggeman
Lu Kz  - Oct. 20, 2020, 7:28 a.m.

I hear that about the lenses. My favorite lens they make is the rose cromapop with no mirror at all which seems to only come on the full goggle these days. I'll ride it in almost any condition, including darker full forest days. It's too bad because while my friends are all wearing these, on the serious days I end up looking a but "full enduro".

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 20, 2020, 10:32 a.m.

Ah, you can get Rose ChromaPop on just about everything - that's the primary lens that comes with the Wildcats I have. I like the lens, it's just still too dark under our thick canopy. That lens is also available with the Attack MTB I mentioned and many others. If I lived in Squamish, Whistler, or Pemberton, I'd likely get more use out of that lens. Here, it's dark city.

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mrbrett
+1 Pete Roggeman
mrbrett  - Oct. 20, 2020, 6:47 a.m.

I find my clear lenses in my Wildcats are great; but the Narcissus Gold lens that works so well in the sun seems to scratch very easily. Like, I keep them in a glasses bag in my pack for the ride up and it's a real roll of the dice whether or not they will be any more scratched than last time. I kind of wish Smith offered them clear only, but would anyone buy a giant pair of glasses you can barely see?

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pete@nsmb.com
+1 mrbrett
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 20, 2020, 10:34 a.m.

Narcissus Gold. Love it. Too bad they're scratching for you. Make sure that bag is clean - mine get dirty easily so I regularly clean them using mild soap. I find they pick up grease but also bits of dirt and that stuff is super abrasive.

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Bad-Sean
+1 Pete Roggeman
Sean Chee  - Oct. 20, 2020, 11:15 a.m.

For me, I have to have the classic chunky oury grips on every bike. It feels strange to ride with anything else after 25 years. 

Now liz skins have taken over and jacked the price way up (in oz anyway). I'm a bit disappointed and am prepared to switch to odi ruffians. I use them on my ktm so am pretty familiar with the feel. 

Of course the liz skin shores are a logical alternative but I refuse to support a company that treats customers with contempt.

I'm tempted by the deity supracush but I'm mindful that odi is much more widely available and will likely be that way for some time. The last thing I want is to fall in love with something like a grip and have it disappear from market after a year or two.

Otherwise it's dmr flat pedals, the crisp click of a shimano shifter, and a frame that can take a water bottle that are the final touches which make my life happier.

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kekoa
+1 Pete Roggeman
kekoa  - Oct. 20, 2020, 4:37 p.m.

So can I ask a question? I’ve ridden in Squamish/Whistler/Pemberton several times while on vacation and I’m always left with the sense that Canadians are too bad ass to wear glasses because I just don’t see a lot of glasses wearing. Now as a contact wearing in Hawaii, I always wear glasses when I’m riding, more so in the rain and mud. So are glasses not a must wear item?

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skooks
0
Skooks  - Oct. 20, 2020, 6:28 p.m.

Nobody in any of my riding groups wear glasses. I know some people wear them all the time, but I would say the majority of people around here don't. Definitely not a must have item.

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sandy-james-oates
0
Sandy James Oates  - Oct. 20, 2020, 7:09 p.m.

Climbing is steep and long, sweat drips into your glasses, high humidity causes fogging. Can’t see clearly and off go the glasses.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Oct. 20, 2020, 7:55 p.m.

Sometimes my eyes water so much I can’t ride properly. Sometimes they don’t. I’m not sure why but it’s likely relate to the weird undiagnosed systemic thing I have going on. Lately it’s been wet and my eyes have been good so I’ve been avoiding the hassle of fogging eyewear and it’s been glorious. A good fender is a must but otherwise it works fine. Speeds are generally pretty low and it’s rarely dusty so when specs are avoidable, it makes sense to ditch them. I’m definitely not too badass for anything.

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kekoa
0
kekoa  - Oct. 21, 2020, 12:12 a.m.

Ahh thanks for the response guys. Interesting perspectives.

Reply

agleck7
+2 Pete Roggeman IslandLife
Agleck7  - Oct. 21, 2020, 6:35 a.m.

I always wear eye protection since any little spill in the bushes can randomly scratch an eye which is risky business. I much prefer riding without but my common sense prevails

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 21, 2020, 7:50 a.m.

1) On a lot of the trails around here, we don't ride that fast.

2) It's so wet and climbs so intense, even the best glasses fog up. Some people just bag 'em (or their goggles) until the top and then bring 'em out, but...

3) Dust only an issue a few months of the year (except in Pemberton and to some extent, Whistler), and again, speeds are lower. Except in Pemby. And sometimes Whistler.

When it gets really dark and wet, I put them away, too. Except if we're riding trails where we're bushwhacking a bit or in areas that don't get a lot of riders, where stray branches are a hazard.

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IslandLife
+2 Agleck7 Pete Roggeman
IslandLife  - Oct. 21, 2020, 8:36 a.m.

Live in the area you mention and everyone in my riding groups wears glasses or goggles.  I tend to see more people wearing glasses or goggles than not.  I often see people not wearing them for the climb, but they come out for the descent.  But you're right... there does seem to be a growing crowd of non-wearers... which is crazy... it's so easy to take a stray branch or rock or mud to the eye.  And that's while riding... even easier to seriously injure your eyes while crashing into the woods.  I consider them as essential as kneepads.

I think people don't want to shell out for a quality pair of glasses that work well in all conditions... and perhaps they just don't know what's possible from a great pair of glasses.  I switch back and forth between goggles and glasses depending on riding conditions and weather.  For glasses I use the Ryders Eyewear Fyre lens (the "Roam" specifically).  It's insane how well these lenses work... the anti-fog is the best I've ever used/seen/heard of.  They have a huge photochromic range that works crazy fast.  They're so good I put them on at the beginning of my ride and totally forget I'm wearing them (climbing, descending.. all of it).

I think people get tired of shitty glasses that fog up or are too dark in the forest and then not dark enough in the sun, etc, etc, and just stop wearing them.  If more people invested in proper glasses... more people would be wearing them.  

I also think it's sort of becoming another douchey "cool guy" trend... Day 1: "Ya, I'm so awesome I don't even need glasses".  Day 2: "Ya, sorry, I can't ride today... scratched my cornea...".

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Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 1, 2020, 6:10 a.m.

I never used to wear glasses here in Coastal BC. But, I was getting irritated [literally!] by summer dust in my eyes and then a had couple near misses at eye poking out events that motivated me to find a solution in a set of Oakely Jawbreakers with photocromatic lenses. They rarely have any fogging issues, provide great protection coverage from mud/dust and pokey branches plus they are light enough for deep forest riding and dark enough for riding comfortably in bright clearings/logging roads. I don't ride without glasses now.

Reply

Greg_M
+1 IslandLife
Greg_M  - Oct. 21, 2020, 2:51 p.m.

$200+ for glasses that still fog up for 75+% of the time while riding (climbing)?

I bought a set of Ryders Thorn anti-fogs maybe 4 years ago (with the transition yellow lenses) and ride everywhere in every weather with them and have no issues. Dank north shore? wet Squamish rides? Hot alpine days with no shade and lots of sweat wearing a full face? No worries anywhere. Give them a wash in hot water every now and then to keep the sweat buildup under control and they're good to go.

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 25, 2020, 9:44 p.m.

The Wildcats only fog up when you stop moving so I just pull em off until I start moving again.

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Greg_M
0
Greg_M  - Oct. 21, 2020, 2:51 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

mikeynets
+1 Pete Roggeman
mikeynets  - Oct. 21, 2020, 4:58 p.m.

Ha. I get mad listening to the Daily too, but it's aptly named. Can't do without. 

If I did podcasts while riding, it would have to be funny or about music — maybe the Trap Set.

Question about those earbuds — do they ever fall out while riding?

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 25, 2020, 9:45 p.m.

If you get the fit and placement right, they’re solid. Every now and then an ear piece flange will migrate and then slowly work it’s way loose, but you can feel it happening and jam it back in with one hand while riding.

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mb
+1 Pete Roggeman
Mikey Bikey  - Oct. 23, 2020, 12:46 p.m.

Long ago and far away, the Reader's Digest interviewed Chuck Noll, head coach for  the Pittsburg Steelers.  

When asked what the secret  was to 4 championships in 5 years, he said "Anybody can play football. We pay attention to the details."

cheers

Reply

kmag76
+1 Pete Roggeman
kmag76  - Oct. 25, 2020, 7:14 a.m.

I too enjoy listening to music/podcasts while climbing, but also still like to be aware of my surroundings.

Ive tried a bunch of options over the years, and have settled on this little Polk Audio boom bit speaker that clips to my shirt and I find it uses your body to project the music out.  

It works great and can be found cheap.

https://www.amazon.ca/Polk-Audio-BITE-Boom-Blue/dp/B01HIS5NR6/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=polk%2Baudio%2Bboom%2Bbit&qid=1603634203&sr=8-1&th=1

Great find on those Giro gloves BTW. Will give them a go.

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pete@nsmb.com
+1 kmag76
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 25, 2020, 9:47 p.m.

Nice if you’re riding somewhere remote but on busy trails I promise not everyone shares your taste in music - or playing it out loud (even if it’s quiet).

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 25, 2020, 9:47 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 1, 2020, 6:14 a.m.

I typically have not liked the bigger grips I have tried, but for some reason on my new hardtail my grips were feeling small so I tried a set of the RF Getta in 33mm. So far they have been great. They feel big without feeling too big. Comfortable amount of squish and good tackiness with gloves. 

The only downside so far is they have rubber ends so I can't use my typical metal bar end plugs. So I figure I'll end up ripping/damaging the ends of the grips through normal use, but they do look nice fresh.

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