A couple of years ago now, our lovely editor Anna asked me to cover an outdoor leisure show at London’s Excel. It was an enjoyable show and I remember giving it a thumbs up. I also remember giving solid reviews to several products given to me to road test and a cautiously positive review to a product that I was enthusiastic about sufficiently to purchase. That product was the AFTERSHOKZ BLUEZ bone conduction headphones.
I bought them, because I thought it may be nice to have some tunes on a ride and I’ve always felt headphones whilst riding to be insanely dangerous. AFTERSHOKZ are different though, because they use an ingenious transducer device, developed initially for military use and now under constant development and refinement by AFTERSHOKZ, which transmits the sound through the cheekbone, eliminating the delicate inner ear, leaving your ears open to what’s going on around you. They are also Bluetooth. Though they now have a cabled option in their range.
My initial review was full of praise for the technology, it’s safety first approach and the outstanding if bizarre (it’s going through your cheek bones not your ears) sound quality. The shortcomings of the original set I put down to me, sweating a lot and not being able to get a good enough fit to get them to remain on my head. I put them in a drawer and forgot about them until a few months ago, when getting ready to do my fourth ( never again) Ride 100 London-Surrey. I was astounded to find that they had kept a pretty decent charge.
My new helmet didn’t fit so low as my S works and I was thus able to get a slightly better fit, although the pads of the transducer contact points, still slipped far too much on my ride when I worked up a sweat. It was annoying, but I resolved to work on the fit. That was when I gave up on AFTERSHOKZ, because the Bluetooth connection was intermittent, dependant upon where my head was positioned. With the phones still slipping and now the reception breaking up, it was time to pop them in a jersey pocket saying great idea….poor execution. As I said in frustration in a subsequent email. Originally I had no warranty claim..They worked and worked brilliantly…let down by my leaking bonce! Then when I discovered a warranty issue, they were out of warranty. Ah well at £80 odd a moderately expensive ” never mind”. Back in the drawer.
Fast forward to the Registration exhibition for the Pru Ride 100 ( hoik spit). God knows why I decided to loiter in there once I’d got my numbers I don’t know, as it was largely same old same old. Indeed, had it not been like Santas Grotto or IKEA, one way in one way out, I wouldn’t have. Fate then brought me once more to AFTERSHOKZ and boy am I glad it did!
There were two guys on a well lit and enticing stand, with quite clearly some new products. I was giving them a glance when, one of the two guys on the stand (Drew) caught my eye. I ushered him out of earshot of his colleague (who turned out to be M.D. Rod) who was talking with some very keen customers. It isn’t my job or my way to throw my toys out of the pram. I related my experiences to Drew who was very sympathetic….actually concerned (and I hadn’t mentioned that I wrote for this August journal) He asked me to email my story to them, mentioning his name.
Well, I did write and pressed the send button with the thought “that’ll be the last I hear of that” How wrong was I? In fact, that chance meeting with Drew turned out to be the start of the very best customer care experience that I have had in my entire 64 years…YES THE VERY BEST! Before close of business that day Rod Annet had emailed a lovely friendly note, saying how sad he was to hear of my experience and regretted that we’d not been able to chat on registration day. He went on to say that the very problems I had encountered were ones that they had identified and that three incarnations later, he was so convinced that I would find their new model TREKZ TITANIUM would answer my problems that he would replace my old ones free of charge, not only that, but I could pick my colour too. Still I’d not mentioned CyclingShorts.cc (this one is turning into cycling trousers I know… But, keep up). I parcelled the old ones up and mailed them on the Tuesday, on Thursday, the new ones arrived.
First thing you’ll notice when you buy a set…..and you will, is that they are beautifully presented in packaging that is a part of a good buying experience similar to buying from Apple. Presentation does count. Once unpacked my green and black (matches my Dolan, nicely) were instantly more pleasing to the eye, a behind the head loop in green and a firm but very comfortable silicone finish, on the lines of most over the ear sports headphones, is far better than the bulky black “Alice band” of my previous model.
In use they are brilliant. There is a microphone on each side and on the left, a multi function button that enables, phone call answer, hold, and voice dial. This may be a surprise for the boys, but the voice dial function accesses Siri on iPhone and I was able to select a fresh album of music without stopping….big big bonus! On the right arm is the mini USB charging port (micro to standard USB cable included). Slots nicely in to an iPhone charger and mine took 45 minutes to reach a full charge, though it did have a small charge on delivery. Two small buttons….a tiny bit awkward if one has sausage fingers, but by the end of my ride I’d got used to easily controlling volume up, down and on/off functions. Lastly (when stopped) a simultaneous press of the multi function (left ear) button and the volume buttons enable you to change the sound equalisation… oh and the multi function button also advances the track.
Sound quality wise, the clarity, and depth is superb and more than equal to a Bose set or Apple ear buds that I also own. Quite simply it will amaze you. One complaint from before was the sound leak, that is annoying to others nearby. This is now a thing of the past. My partner who has the hearing of a dog. Could hear nothing at full volume….there’s another thing. With the sound bypassing the inner ear through the cheek bones…volume isn’t a problem. So, a first class sound, and that all important safety feature of being able to hear all the ambient noise….approaching traffic etc is fantastic. “Really Jon? You wear hearing aids don’t you?” Ah you got me…….no you didn’t. My aids fit over my ear. The TREKZ TITANIUM, fits over my ear. My Salice glasses fit over my ear and there’s room for the lot and yes boys at AFTERSHOKZ, there’s two more bits of info you may not be aware of. So even with a major hearing loss, I can still enjoy music on a ride and hear everything going on around me.
What about wind noise? Well, I’m lucky. I have the latest NHS aids, which have an excellent wind diffuser….I can probably hear more ambient sound than people with good hearing. Rod in his email said that wind noise on the microphones was still a problem above 15mph. No, it’s not. Hey, I’m putting a product to the sword here. Yesterday afternoon was very windy here in Bedfordshire, at eighteen MPH and into a head wind, I voice dialled my partner, who reported that she heard me better on these than on my iPhone when walking in a stiff breeze. I then used Siri to change an album using the complicated sentence ” play Eliane Ellias” which is quite a gob full and I had Brazillian lush all the way home.
“Ah but what about them slipping on your greasy face?! ” no bother at all. I didn’t, but I’m pretty sure that I could’ve drawn a box around them and they wouldn’t have budged. A hard 45 windy miles on the road then 30 hard and hilly Zwift miles last night, no worries at all. If your bonce is a tad small, they come with two small bands that makes a close fit perfect. Last but not least a neat little carrying pouch and a pair of ear plugs complete the kit. This means you can pop them in have your TREKZ on full (with no inner ear problems) and cut out the noise of the tube or the screaming kid in seat 4G.
Note from the Ed: While we love these headphones at CyclingShorts.cc, there is always room for improvement through product development – Jon would give them 110% if he was allowed, so I’ve reined him in a little. Can you hear me cracking my whip?
Brick Lane, in the heart of London’s East End and formerly known as Whitechapel Lane has always been a vibrant melting pot of a place and the earliest known record of its existence was on a woodcut map that was printed sometime during the 16th Century. It has been home to many communities of immigrants throughout its colourful history. Always a staging post to upward mobility. That mobility sometimes being slow, sometimes quite rapid. It has been home to French Huguenots, Ashkenazi Jews, and then Eastern European and Russian Jews in the early 20th century. It has been an epicentre of changing small scale industries centred around the clothing industry. Weaving, Leather making, Exquisite tailoring and the sweatshops of the rag trade. Home to Fagin and Jack The Ripper. It still retains its flavour of an amalgam of the new and tentative amidst wide boy small entrepreneurs. Shops momentarily flourishing displaying “vintage” clothing….aka, overpriced elegantly displayed jumble sales. The earnest Guardian reading fashionistas leaving their tatty chic boutiques to browse scratched vinyl records and other vendors tatty chic furniture. 35mm cameras that will never be used and they buy their fabulous Indian sub continent, Eastern European and Far Eastern street food lunches in cheap and plentiful non eco friendly styrofoam boxes.
The Truman Brewery’s disused premises opened above a now drained well in 1863 are themselves a tatty chic exhibition space in keeping with the area and ideal therefore to house the show “SPIN” devoted to the urban cycling revolution taking place in London, with a nod here and there to the sporting and serious leisure cycling side of things enabling the hipsters their radical touch of the esoteric work of cycling.
Spin was a show for Hipsters. No doubt whatsoever about that. There was the very deliberate wearing of 20,30,50 year old continental race team kit. I saw one guy. Beard long enough to plait and use as a climbing rope in his Gan team kit, hanging on Chris Boardman’s every word and nodding sagely as he munched on his tofu burger before clattering away in an ancient pair of wooden soled track shoes, converted to take the cleats of a set of middle ‘80s Look Classic pedals. Yes, it really was that sort of occasion. The exhibition was a truly enjoyable reflection of Brick lane’s very nature on to the world of cycling. There was a plentiful amount of beautifully crafted clothing, hand built bespoke bicycles (in steel of course) and the feeling that rather like the place 100 yards down Brick Lane that has now ceased attempting to trade in contemporary Vietnamese Folding food, many of them, for all of their skill and genuine innovation would struggle to stay in business much beyond two years or so. That is a great pity, because in the reviews that will follow shortly, I am going to take you on a wander through the best of SPIN and introduce you to some of the start up businesses that are attempting to take root.
If you’d not seen Rollapaluzza before, you might have been forgiven for turning away before you entered the place. They’d set up their usually thriving space and were attracting their usually lengthy queues accompanied by music so loud and a commentary so unintelligible that you have to walk away or give in. We walked away and that was the point at which we recognised the advantage of this very solid old building, step into the next room and the sound that filled the entrance hall was all but eliminated by the purposeful 19th century walls. A moment to reflect on some art work, depicting some of the greats of our sport….up to the 1990s (yes that was the first indicator) Bartolli, Coppi, Simpson, Merckx, Rijs, Anquetil, LeMond, Hinault, Boardman, Obree, Yndurain, Abdujaporov, and my hero (shut up… its my article) the finest climber of all time Marco(Il Pirate) Pantani. None of them were particularly flattering, but at Brick Lane prices I wasn’t going to be hanging one in my shed anyway.
The whole feel of the show was not so much a display of products to do with the world of cycling, but products that were designed to fit lifestyle choices of which cycling is but a part. Cycling fits very nicely into the choices made by the eco friendly….correction, obsessively eco friendly and thats not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a pedantic quirkiness about almost every exhibitor that makes sense to some. Indeed, with the exception of one or two of cycling better known brands. Boardman Elite and Bianchi, most were at the end of the cycling spectrum that says commuter or courier rider that seek form over function. Indeed the more conventional the product on offer the more out of place it looked.
A number of the products quirky or not, really did impress and I shall review them and in some cases road test them too. There was the stuff that did interest me. The bespoke frame builders, some of whom were brazing but joint and brazed steel frames that are becoming popular again amongst some sections of the regular cycling community. Sadly when we were there these craftsmen were not drawing anywhere near as much attention as the stand selling those bloody ridiculous Dura Ace equipped Bamboo framed bikes…… yes, exactly what I thought!
As I say, there was a kind of studied pedantry to the wares on offer. Quill stems, rat trap pedals with old style toe clips barely a modern pedal on view. I fell in love with a gorgeous titanium framed bike… The frame was brand spanking new, but everything on it was a (admittedly beautifully done) restored and refurbished ‘80s item. The entire group and finishing kit was old style 5 speed friction shift Campagnolo record. It gleamed. It stunned….. its price tag made me wince……. no, trust me you don’t want to know.
When it comes to anything approaching regular bike choices these folk are cautious. Yes I want something that says serious cyclist, but I don’t feel comfortable going into my LBS, so I’ll stick my nose in the trough with names I recognise Boardman, Bianchi and Cinelli… We can’t be seen to be going into Halfords or Evans and buying something cheaper and far more appropriate to our needs, it has to say chic. It has to say, “at weekends my other bike is a Porsche and my winters are spent at Cortina or Chamonix”.
Yes it was a Hipsters show and if thats your thing, good on yer. You’re riding a bike and anyone who has read my drivel before, knows that this will always get my vote. I half begged to be given this assignment and I’m glad I went for the few products that were in my jaded opinion worthy of attention and for the wonderful (and well attended) interview and Q&A with my hero of the entire show, Martyn Ashton. Will I go again next year? No. But I love Brick Lane, the street food etc, the tiny record stalls and the markets. I even like the quirky nature of SPIN….it’s just that very little of it was for me.
Cycling Shorts unleashes Santa’s Little Helpers.
Yes the panic is setting in, so much to get organised and so little time, so we’ve all got together to give you a list of gift ideas that won’t disappoint the fussiest cyclist or cycling fan in your life.
We’ve split our choices into four perfect price packages, click on the images to be taken to the retailers website.
Wishing you a Merry Festivemas from all at CyclingShorts.cc!
This years show runs from 26th – 28th September 2014 and has exhibits from just about every brand you have heard of in the Cycling World and then some.
There are many highlights and there has been a push this year to get some of the fresh new equipment on show for the punters to drool over.
Kim Madsen presents New XTR Di2 Gruppo
Top of this list was the Shimano stand where Kim Madsen and his team have unveiled the new XTR Di2 Groupset and have set it up on a working bike along with a 3D interactive Trainer that when wearing the magic 3D goggles allows you to actually ride in the mountains!! There will be big queues to play with this so get there early!! Kim and his team are part of Shimano’s drive to keep the fun and excitement in cycling and when you see the faces on the grown-ups testing the new kit you will see this plan’s working!!
For Weight Watchers the big draw will be Treks stand featuring the new super light Emonda range which features there lightest ever production model. The excuse that they haven’t got one in the colour you want is out the window as they have a vast range of custom options to match your team or club kit, seeing is believing but this bike is measured on how fast your jaw drops when you lift it and say ‘Wow’!!
Bioracer have a fantastic simple stand which shows their new super safe Pixel range which reflects light the give riders visibility in poor light, ideal for winter and at the other end of the scale their much talked about Speedsuit time trial wear actually had people queuing to see what Martin and all the top testers have been using to help cheat the wind.
The exhibition is vast so take sensible shoes and enjoy the entertainment such as at 14.15 pm everyday Jules Thraser from ATG training giving a demo on how to program Shimano Di2 components, easy when you are shown well!!
Hiplok are an award winning lock company who strive to balance ergonomic design and security.
Newest to a growing portfolio of security products is the Hiplok-D. Designed on the classic, sturdy D lock that many will find heavy and bulky to carry, the Hiplok-D has been designed conveniently smaller. Plus, the unique clip feature (available in a choice of colours) allows you to easily attach the lock to a bag strap or belt making it a lot easier to transport when using your bike.
Although smaller, the 13mm hardened steel shackle, hardened steel body casing and tough nylon outer shell still delivers a Secure Silver Award, so there’s no worrying that it won’t be as secure as other bulkier locks. Delivered with 3 distinctive keys, there’s no worry of losing a key and never being able to unlock your pride and joy again!
I lent the D to a local Windsor cyclist who commutes daily to his job as a teacher. He was enthused at the idea of the size of the lock and the ability to carry it easily with his work bag. Although small, the lock is still weights in at 1kg, a factor he found limited the security of carrying the lock on his bag strap. After losing it to a number of road junctions, he eventually had to resort to carrying the lock in his bag. That aside, the 13.5cm x 7cm internal area proved big enough to secure a bike frame to something fixed; although you’d struggle if you wanted to lock your frame and wheel in the same instance (along with larger top tube bikes).
Anna’s (CS Editor) thoughts… ‘This Lock is probably not suited to smaller riders to carry on their waistband as you are carrying all the weight in one place. If you’re a smaller rider you may prefer the Hiplok V1.50, Lite or POP as they evenly distribute the weight around your waist or body. The price is slightly more than your average D lock at £59.99, but not the priciest on the market by a long way, remember when buying a lock you need to compare like with like on the Security Award ratings.’
You can find more out about the Hiplok range at their website: www.hiplok.com
Cycling Shorts gives the Hiplok-D 76% rating.
– Small and compact
– Easy to use
– Easy to carry
– Highly secure
– Still pretty weighty
– Clip feature isn’t 100% secure
– Limited locking space
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping! Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk
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