I shared a little video of the equipment and clothing being taken on my 9 day, 950 mile John O’Groats to Land’s End cycling challenge. I wanted to follow that up with a few blogs about how I got on. So, here’s a really quick run-down of the 10 absolute best things I took with me my recent JOGLE Challenge. This isn’t meant to be a full on review, just some musings on why I bought and took them, but also why I think they are brilliant and therefore why you might want to consider them yourself.
I should note at this point, I am in no way sponsored by any of the products mentioned, these are my opinions only, I just believe in giving credit where its due. Also the items are kind of random, so its not a ranked list either…phew…right on with my picks.
Restrap Saddle Bag Holster and 8 Litre Dry Bag – £94.99
Restrap are a British (Leeds) based company made up of a team of outdoor enthusiasts who design, develop and sew all their products by hand.
This is a rackless saddle bag that connects securely to the seatpost, by a meaty velcro and vinyl strap, and as there are no mounts or screws involved it attaches to the bike in seconds. The set up consists of a holster within which you insert your dry bag, which is then secured in place using patented magnetic buckles – making them incredibly easy to use with cold, wet hands.
It is worth saying that there is a larger 14ltr option of this system available, but for me the 8ltr held everything I needed. Within the bag I managed to fit a t-shirt, shorts, 3 pairs of socks, my wash kit, some bike spares and chargers. The dry bag is, as the name suggests, totally waterproof and extremely easy to attach to the bike. The adjustable straps – two side and one which loops over the top of – hold the dry bag in the holster. The added bonus for me was that this allowed me to stash additional items, such as my pump, bike lock and shoes securely underneath the straps without taking up valuable space inside the bag. Taken off the bike the dry bag is very easy to carry, the looped top acting as a nifty handle.
I was carrying around 4kg in the bag and there was no noticeable swaying even with Devon and Cornwall’s best attempt to blow me off course. Of course some furious cycling and a few tumbles will move it around, but hey that’s to be expected.
At nearly £100 it’s not the cheapest option on the market, but I think the two part system (allowing you to take your stuff without removing the holster) gives it the advantage of the other models, such as the Apidura. View it as an investment in British design and manufacturing quality and I have no doubt that this piece of kit will just keep going and going. In my opinion its perfect for those of you who want to cycle far and travel light without the faff.
dhb Aeron Full Protection Softshell – £96.80*
dhb is an in-house Wiggle brand and appears to have been growing and growing in popularity, providing affordable, high quality cycling clothes. I must say here I own a fair amount of dhb clothing for the reason of that it appears to offer good value, its often well rated on customer reviews and I’ve found the fit to be just right for me.
Anyway, I’m not going to recount the manufacturer spiel here, suffice to say like most of the items of clothing I bought for my JOGLE Challenge this jacket claimed to be both wind proof and water resistant. Most were unable to fulfil on the later promise, all apart from the Aeron Jacket – which frankly was superb.
There is a ‘hidden’ vent, providing some breathability to the jacket, across the shoulders which allowed some of the heat out when putting in the effort on the hills. This does, however, create an opening for some rain to get in when the wind is particularly swirly. The back of the jacket has a longer tail with a wide silicone seam, which does provide a bit of extra protection from the elements for your shorts / leggings (and therefore may keep your bottom drier for longer).
It’s a good fit, with a nice cut – the cuffs are elasticated, which has the positive of keeping them tight to the skin and therefore the wind out. This is the, however, the only real let down – being elastic they aren’t water proof and once completely soaked dripped water down my hands and in to my gloves.
*I’ve added a star to the price – I didn’t pay that much for it. Wiggle appear to have a strange price structure and products regularly appear to go up and down in price.
Aldi Merino Sports base layer – £16.99 each
It’s 30% merino wool….wooooh, what the heck is merino? Well I’ll be honest I had to Google it myself. So the skinny on it is – compared to your standard wool, merino has exceptionally fine fibres, which make it incredibly soft, lightweight and elastic, its biodegradable and breathable, the later meaning it keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter.
So essentially it’s got a whole long list of benefits and as such makes it’s a great base layer, to wear underneath your cycling jersey – did I mention its wicking too? Anyway, back to the Aldi product – it’s cheap, but as some would argue that’s because it’s got a lower % of merino in it. Rapha for example have a 100% merino wool product for £60 and as such it is, as with most things, a personal choice. This was my first Merino base layer purchase, so for me 30% content felt like a good starting point. I used this Aldi product In November, in Scotland when it was ruddy freezing so I consider this a pretty good test of its ability to keep me warm and sweat free. On the bike I felt comfortable, ok not warm, but I suffered no chaffing and no hotspots. Similarly, I wore the same top for 10 days and it neither became misshapen or odorous (as far as I’m aware) and when it did get a bit damp, it dried within minutes.
At £16 this product is a bargain and well worth my cash – Chapeau Aldi.
DeFeet Woolie Boolie 2 – £13.00 per pair
Thanks to Joe Fisher (aka The Bodybulding Cyclist – https://www.instagram.com/bb.cyclist/) for the recommendation on these as a ‘go to’ winter sock. Made of wool (as the brilliant product name suggests), but specifically that magical merino wool (nearly 50% of the good stuff) mentioned above. I won’t go back over the qualities of merino except for the point that sold it for me – merino keeps you warm even when wet, so for a winter sock that seems pretty important for me particularly when I was envisaging being rained on for most of my 9 day JOGLE Challenge. These are a thick sock – much thicker than your standard cycling sock, so take note when sizing your purchase. Similarly as they only come in Dark Grey you may consider your sock game to be less on point visually, but trust me when tucked under a pair of long tights who cares what they look like – they are warm and comfortable and that is all that really matters. They come in a 4” and a 6” cuff length – I went with the longer of the two cuff’s to give a little bit more warmth.
Top quality sock for winter riding, I genuinely cannot recommend these more highly. Just note, if your shoes are tight already, you’re going to find these a bit snug.
Assos Chamois Crème – between £10 – £13 for a 140ml pot
An essential piece of equipment. I could stop there but won’t. Apparently there are two ways to apply (either I didn’t know or I didn’t read the instructions), although personally I go for direct application to the skin which I imagine is the most frequent way. We are, however, racing ahead – chamois creams are designed to reduce friction, and therefore chaffing and potentially infection, of your delicate parts.
Assos is, apparently, renowned among cyclists for being the best formula – I bought it based on the recommendations on Wiggle, so in a sense the earlier statement must indeed have some truth to it. Due to the menthol in the cream it cools the skin, which for me after a few days in to the JOGLE was actually welcomed. This cold sensation soon wears off leaving the treated area protected for whatever the day can throw at you.
Secondly you can apply it directly to the pad in your shorts, so that it soaks up all that lubricating goodness and release over the course of your ride. This has the added bonus of keeping the pad soft and supple. So, if you suffer from saddle sores then I am sure this would be much needed if you’re spending a good day in the saddle.
Perfect if you suffer saddle sores, you can’t go far wrong with Assos.
Active Root – 1.4kg Tub £19.99
Active Root is a sports drink company, born and based in Edinburgh, committed to delivering innovative natural sports drinks to athletes of all levels. The drink itself is based on natural root ginger, as well as a few other all natural ingredients, in order to help keep athlete’s stomachs settled and balanced during exercise.
The natural, raw cane sugar has two noteworthy points – its natural, chemical free and is a lower GI index carb. This means it’s a slower burn fuel compared to other carbs such as maltodextrin, glucose and fructose. What this means is the carbs burn slower and therefore help to sustain you for longer and help avoid sugar highs and crashes. In the serving you’re getting 200mg of dried ginger – one of the main selling points of this drink is that the ginger helps to alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal stress and nausea. Alongside this 230mg of Sea Salt, which aids hydration and helps to balance all of those essential electrolytes our bodies need to function.
I cannot rate this product highly enough – it’s all natural, it tastes great, it works as a sports drink and again its British. On a more personal note and as an IBS sufferer I was worried the 9 days of cycling and the on bike diet would have cause me some problems, Active Root kept my stomach in check and helped to reduce some of the in the later stages of my JOGLE Challenge. If you’re not sure, I would urge you to get yourself a trial box and give it a go!!
Find my previous review of Active Root here – https://milesforwishes.com/2017/10/26/active-root-product-trial-and-review/
Or Find out more here – https://www.activeroot.co.uk
Soreen Malt Loaf – 260g Loaf £1.00 or A pack of 5 Lunch Box Loaves approx. £1.40
I’m going to put this out there – Soreen is a British classic! I’ve been eating it since I was in short pants and I love it – I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what it is, but if you’ve been under a rock then malt loaf has a sweet taste and a very chewy texture like very heavy, soft bread. It is made from malt and normally contains raisins.. So when I was planning the JOGLE challenge this was a product that was always going to be in my tube top bag.
This sweetish treat is high in complex carbohydrates, protein and a little fat and fibre too. It therefore provides a great balance between and instant energy hit and, thanks to those proteins, you also benefit from a slower release some of that energy as well. Clearly I’m sold – for me this is the perfect pocket-sized fuel for any bike ride, race or challenge. If you can find the seasonal Toffee Apple flavour then you are in for a real treat there.
At home, after a ride or a turbo session – I’ll crack on with the big loaf, add some butter and a cuppa and refuel, but on the bike the Lunch Box Mini Loaves provide a handily packaged treat to keep you fuelled.
ViewRanger is an IoS or Andriod application (app for you cool kids) that essentially provides hundreds and thousands of downloadable maps, GPS navigation and the amazing Buddy Beacon.
The app boasts an hugely detailed maps, which you can download along with your own routes in order to follow, with or without a phone signal. I came across this because of the Buddy Beacon feature – this allows you to publish your position on a map so friends and family can find you. Hugely beneficial as a safety feature but for me it allowed me to display my JOGLE Route and where I was along it – this meant my friends and family could see where I was each day and follow me live as I cycled.
The app is easy to use and configure and has everything you could need to go on your own adventure. The only thing to be mindful of is battery life – as the Buddy Beacon requires an active mobile signal and GPS enabled, it does eat the battery. I got around 6 hours from a full charge on a Samsung S5, which I topped up with a portable battery pack as required towards the end of the day.
Go have a look, its an amazing product – http://www.viewranger.com/en-gb – and well worth a look for anyone heading out on a charity challenge.
Continental GatorHardshell Rigid Tyres
The best way I can describe these tyres is – bullet proof. Ok, ok, so no they are not literally bullet proof that would be a bit over the top, but they are incredibly tough.
After a spate of punctures I was recommended these particular tyres by my Friend and fellow Wish Maker, Tony Frobisher. I’ve been running these for well over 1,000 miles now and not even a sniff of a puncture – so for me their worth has been proved many times over. I kind of don’t really care how they work, just that they do – but for your benefit here’s the science bit. Essentially it has bead to bead protection in the form of the Hardshell, aptly named Duraskin, which wraps right in to the side wall. On top of this you have the PolyX Breaker, which I imagine is the bulletproofing.
Clearly this German Manufacturer knows what it is doing and for the price, around £25 per tyre, they feel like a steal. Again, just head to your favourite online retailer and check the reviews – they are popular and rightly so.
Last but not least, The beast (my Bike and me being the Beauty, obviously)
I think the bike is worth a mention, simply because I’m a little surprised it actually made it the whole way without major drama – ok so maybe I lost a few gears off the low end and it was a bit (quite a lot) squeaky and crunchy at the end based on the amount of dirt and grime in the bearings, chain and gears.
The frame is a 54” aluminium 2012 Carrera TDF (which when new came in a fancy Yellow / Black colour scheme to represent the Tour de France). Carrera is a Halfords in-house bike brand that has been around for approximately 25 years, with a reputation built on quality and affordability. My frame was an eBay purchase, back in December 2016. I spent between December and March stripping and rebuilding the bike, in order to upgrade and replace (in most cases) old, worn or just plain rusty parts. I’m not running an expensive set up but any means – I have a 10 speed Shimano Tiagra group set (new), a Deda stem (new), Deda bar tape (new) and cables. From the original bike I reused the San Marco seat and post, the handle bars and the Bontranger mud guards (as the Carrera frame is set up for this style of guard, which bolt on to the frame through dedicated eyelets). The Bontranger wheels were a donation from a friend, although the rim edge is now pretty dinged so their life is somewhat limited now. That said I was really lucky to win a UKCycleChat competition and have some new CES wheels coming in the New Year. Quite litterally shocked and amazed about that.
The bike was never about being the lightest or fastest, or cheapest – I wanted the challenge of building it myself but I also didn’t want to make a huge investment in something I had never done before and wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy or be good at. It is neither the best or prettiest bike you will ever see, but I genuinely love that bike, of course I may buy an upgrade if I prove to have any skills at Duathlons and Time Trails, but I don’t see me parting with it willingly.
So there you have it, if you disagree that’s fine – these worked for me and my budget – but hopefully you enjoyed the read if nothing else.
Just a reminder that the JOGLE Challenge, which I completed in 9 days, solo and unsupported, was all in aid of Make-A-Wish UK. If you’d like to donate you can, just visit my Just Giving page and help raise a little bit more for children facing life threatening conditions – www.justgiving.com/milesforwishes