Review – AFTERSHOKZ TREKZ Titanium Bone Conduction Headphones

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.

My experience in brief, a great idea has transformed into a brilliant idea and an even better product. It’s British, they are not resting on their laurels, customer service is beyond first rate. A whole host of the usual online suspects and retail outlets will charge you between £84-£114. Which even at the most expensive is phenomenal value anyway, but for cutting edge tech is just the business.

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?

CyclingShorts.cc Rating

Cycliq Fly6 Rear Light & Camera Review

What can one say if your editor says to you that we have been sent some techy kit to try out, and would you like to review it? Yes please?

Cycliq Fly6 is a high powered rear LED light unit, with a difference. There is a rear facing HD cam built into the sealed all weather lamp that records what’s happening behind you as you travel along on your bike ride, daily commute or just out with friends. Got your rear covered is what it says on the box.

There’s no need to worry about anything else once you have set up the lamp on your bike and done a quick test to make sure you have a decent field of view. Just remember to switch the light-unit on EVERY time you go out!

All the factual information you need about Fly6 is on their website cycliq.com. It’s an updated design from the original, so here at Cycling Shorts, we are simply going to take it out of the box, fit it to the bike, and run it for a week or so.

Firstly, at just shy under one-hundred-pounds, it seems a lot for a rear LED. Is it worth it? Let’s see.

It comes packaged all nice and neat in a stylish black and red box, padded with shaped foam to keep all the components secure during transit to the shop, or direct to the consumer via mail order.

Once opened, there is a quick set-up guide and notes about recent improvements from your customer feedback.

The lamp feels solid, robust and of a quality build. I liked the fact there were two mounting plates and bands to accommodate a multi-bike set-up. The rubber stretch mounts are more common-place these days and means you can easily remove the lamp should you park-up and leave your bike unattended, being an expensive bit of kit.

I fitted the lamp straight onto my Trek road bike without any problem. Using the aero-seat-post adapter, I found it sat perfectly square to the ground, the body design aligned to take a standard 71.5° rake.

Not knowing what sort of view would be recorded, I positioned the lamp as high as I could without it touching my small tool pouch that was sitting tightly under the saddle.

I found the re-designed mount plate difficult to handle. I’d clipped the lamp unit into the plate slot to check the fitting prior to mounting and couldn’t remove very easily at all. It certainly wasn’t going to come loose, which isn’t a bad thing. But it made me realise that fitting the two mount plates to my two bikes, probably wasn’t going to work as well as I imagined. Maybe they would free off slightly over time if I separate them from time-to-time.

To run the test, I first had to fully charge the built-in Lithium battery. Although it comes pre-charged I wanted to see how long it would take to re-charge and how long it would last, running at full LED power. You can reduce the out-put level several times to conserve energy, or reduce the glare that the main LED emits. [Via the Courtesy Dimmer, opposite the power button].

I plugged the unit into my laptop with the provided USB lead early afternoon. I’d read that the charge LED would go off once charged. Having used re-chargeable lights this Winter gone, I knew that they took a while to fully charge up at work plugged into the USB slot on my PC, and I was right. It was late evening before the LED extinguished. Ok, I’ll test the unit tomorrow then!

Setting off on my Sunday morning bike ride, I’d set the lamp to full power and off I went. Three and a-quarter hours later, back home I switched the unit off. The unit had created a folder on the media card and sliced the ride into ten-minute videos. So they were twelve time indexed files created. I’d noticed that the first hour or so files had already been deleted, not a problem as the unit is there to safeguard any footage of an incident an hour prior to an incident and an hour after the trigger has been set through the bike laying on the ground.

Aimed as a safety back-up device designed to tell a story of what you were doing prior to any incident, then this lamp is a great way of providing additional evidence after the event. You simply must use it on every occasion that you jump on your bike, especially if commuting through town where things can sometimes get a bit more demanding.

The footage the camera produced was of a decent quality to see how the bike ride unfolded. Coming in ten-minute bite size pieces, it provides great footage that can easily be shared amongst friends and family. The file sizes produced are around four-hundred and fifty megabits each, and on the supplied card will hold around eighteen full files.

The recommend free Video Editing software worked a treat too. I found it reasonably easy to cut a couple of pieces from two files and join them to make a short demo.

On my first full power test, I achieved five-and-three-quarter hours recording before the video switched off leaving only the light working. This should last for another hour before being fully depleted.

I would imagine a normal user would need to re-charge the unit twice a week to keep the video camera working on the loop.

On the whole, having used the Cycliq Fly6 for the past four weeks, I would recommend it for my main rear light. Although a bit pricey on my initial glance, considering the beneficial footage that this device records and stores, then it’s a price worth paying.

It may not be something that you would consider buying yourself when looking for a lamp for your bike. But it would make a great gift for someone, for those who are looking for additional safety for their loved ones when out riding the bike.

RRP: £99.00

For more information on the Fly6 visit: www.Cycliq.com

Best price we can find online: www.amazon.co.uk

All Images, Video and text ©www.CyclingShorts.cc / www.chrismaher.co.uk

ICON Intelligent Lights Review

ICONIntelligent Lights

Established in 2013, a Northern-Irish based start up company called See.Sense, Kickstarter funded ICON intelligent lights.

I tested the rear ICON light which has two 95 lumen CREE LEDs and retails at £64.99.

The box contained 2 x rubber mounts, USB cable, the light and a simple, clear user guide.

The set of front and rear is £119.99 and the 30% brighter ICON+ is also available at £149.99 for the set.

ICON is primarily designed as a ‘to be seen’ light, giving up to 270 degrees of side visibility.  This is ideal in urban environments. The front ICON has twin LED’s, one with a focused beam, and one with a dispersed beam. According to See.Sense 80% of accidents happen in daylight and the ICON is certainly bright enough to be visible in daylight.

ICONStreet

So what is so clever about it…..?

Within 2 minutes of opening the package I had downloaded the app and connected the light with my iphone via Bluetooth. The app allows you to:

  • Check your battery level
  • ICONImage-3Change from flashing light to constant
  • Customise your lights to optimise your brightness/run-time using a simple slider
  • Control multiple lights at once
  • Set auto-on/off, which automatically turns off your light after 3 minutes of inactivity, or if you walk more than 3 metres from your light
  • Turn on theft alert, the light will then send you an alert if anything or anyone disturbs your bike to a range of up to 15 metres
  • Turn on crash alert, if you have a crash, ICON knows and will send a text to your nominated contact for help, which you can cancel if you are ok
  • Download firmware and application updates as new features become available

The battery life is up to 15 hours (5hr charge) on flashing mode and on the light itself there is a mini LED to indicate battery level, green for 75%+ and red for less than 25%. The app gives a more accurate battery level and you can adjust the brightness of your light using the app, so it’s easy to maximise your battery life if you’re running low.

I am not sure I would ever adjust brightness/flashing with app myself, but it was fun initially dazzling the family!

See.Sense say the theft detection is ideal for the coffee stop, but would I leave my bike locked outside cafe with a £120 of lights still attached? And perhaps the alarm should be on the light, not the phone to scare away the thief? Having said that it worked and I did indeed get the alert when the light was moved.

I like the crash alert feature as I often ride alone, but the most impressive thing about the light is that it adapts to its environment, increasing its brightness and flash rate to keep you more visible in riskier situations such as junctions, roundabouts, filtering in traffic and to approaching car headlights. If you are in an urban setting, where there is a higher level of ambient lighting from street lighting and approaching cars at night, ICON will automatically adjust to be less bright. It is the only light in the world that can react to road junctions, filtering traffic, roundabouts and car headlights.

Even more intelligent is the fact that ICON will soon monitor your environment. It can monitor road surfaces, crashes, near-miss events, light levels, temperature levels and routes taken. With your permission data will be uploaded to the cloud and aggregated data can then be shared with councils to provide information for cycling infrastructure provision, pothole repairs and identify hot spot areas where there are a high frequency of  ‘near-miss’ events and crashes.

Philip McAleese, CEO of See.Sense said, “It is our hope that ICON will help to ignite a cycling revolution. Not only does ICON enhance the cycling experience through improved safety and convenience, it also has the potential to empower cyclists to influence their cities through the use of highly accurate, crowd-sourced data. This can create smarter and better cities for everyone.”

It comes with a 12 month warranty and is weather sealed, the website actually shows it being dropped in a jug of water and mine has been soaked several times in winter rain and road spray with no adverse effects.

However after about 6 rides the on/off button became somewhat intermittent requiring a really hard press at an angle to switch the light on as if something is perhaps loose or out of alignment behind it.

The light itself is bulky and doesn’t have the aesthetic appeal of some of the other lights on the market; one rider even went so far as to call it ‘ugly’.

Overall it is bright, functional and easy to fit. It is certainly visible and I even received a couple of complaints about how bright it is! Gadget lovers will like the app and although I hope I never need it, I feel reassured by the crash alert. It will be interesting to see how much data See.Sense is able to collect in the future and how this is used, anything that improves the cycling infrastructure and safety must be a good thing.

Watch this space… Visit seesense.cc website.

 

Secret Training Range Review

The secret training products are relatively new to the scene; the main man behind these intriguing new products is Tim Lawson. Tim also being the founder of the well-known nutritional products SIS (Science in Sport) has vast experience with developing the best nutrition products for over 20 years. Tim also being a fantastic athlete himself is working with athletes from all levels from beginners right through to elite athletes.

secret training The brand Secret Training have started out with The Strip System which includes:

Pins in a Tin
Sun Screen
Micro-Fibre Body Cloths
Post Race Wash
Anti-Chafing Cream
Start Oil
Lip Balm
Hygiene Wipes
Hand Sanitiser

All these products can be bought separately or as a Race Day Personal Care Kit (£49.99); this means all the products come in a tidy bag to keep them all together. Having used these products since they were first launched they have accompanied me to all my races. I definitely believe they are a worthwhile investment towards your racing and personal care, helping you to keep clean and comfortable while riding your bike. There is nothing better than products that make your cycling more enjoyable. Having one bag of essentials when you’re racing and travelling filled with all the essential bits and bobs you need (and often forget) is brilliant.

stealth_gel_selectionstealth_hydration_drink_mix_selectionMore recently the team at Secret Training have been developing nutritional products which were properly introduced on the 7th January 2015 at their open event. This presentation consisted of the riders and media getting their first taste of the Stealth Gels and Stealth Super Hydration Drinks with the Strip products also being featured. While trying the assortment of gels (Banana, Lemon & Lime, Citrus, Tropical, Berry), my personal favourite was obvious – the Banana Gel, which seemed to be a popular first choice with a lot of the cyclists present. Tim was there to talk through the science behind the Gels and how they work, unlike some other brands gels the Banana gels actually have real banana in them! The gels can be bought individually for £1.25, £17.50 for a pack of 14. The Berry Energy Gel with Caffeine & Betaine and Banana Gel cost a little more at £24.50 for 14 or £1.75 for single shots, I’m not sure why this is but I’m guessing it’s to do with the cost of the fruit and caffeine ingredients being more expensive or the process involved in integrating them into the gel. As well as trying the Gels the Super Hydration Drinks were a big hit with me coming in a wide range of flavours; Lemon & Lime, Blackcurrant & Elderflower, Mango & Passionfruit and also Lemon Tea. They retail from £15.99 for a selection pack of 20x 14g sachets; each sachet mixes with 500ml of water – to £24.99 for a 600g tub of a single flavour, so they are competitively priced. Each of the flavours are well balanced and relatively neutral, with no overpowering flavours or after taste. The gels and hydration drinks are easy to consume and enjoyable, unlike some other nutritional products I have previously used which have been hard to stomach in the quantities you need to aid your performance.

From speaking to Tim I have found out they are currently working on developing recovery drinks, so there is a lot more to come from this new brand and I can’t wait to see the results. Furthermore Tincoff-Saxo riders are being supported by all products produced by Secret Training, they will be providing valuable feedback for the brand to enable the CyclingShortsSecretTrainingProductsReviewRatingdevelopment of flavours and product ranges, the aim is to provide exactly what riders need and want.

CyclingShorts.cc give Secret Training products a Star Buy rating of 97%:

Personal Care Kit – 98/100
The Personal care kit is unique as I don’t know anything like it.
Nutrition Products – 96/100
In my opinion the nutrition products are the best, better than SIS, Tim said it was very difficult to make ones better but he thinks they have – I have to agree!

I really like the products, try them for yourself, the secret is out!

You can check out the range at: www.secret-training.cc

Pendle Tandem Carrier Roof Rack Reviewed

Earlier this year my wonderful wife surprised me with a Tandem for our 25th Wedding anniversary, which does fit in the back of our people carrier however does not allow us to have anyone else in the car, which would be a bit of a problem when we head to France for our family summer holiday. The solution a tandem roof rack, but which one?

If I am honest I have never really been a fan of bike racks that clamp onto the frame, they often scuffPendle Tandem Roof Rack or damage the tube they clamp to and the the thought of only one clamp point with a Tandem did not appeal.

I scoured the marketplace and came up with three main options but the cost of two of the choices really ruled them out, so I finally plumped for the Pendle Tandem Carrier with front fork clamp. It also meant that I would be supporting a British Engineering firm, in my eyes a big bonus.

The prices direct from Pendle where not great so I placed an order via www.roofbox.co.uk a company I have used over the years to buy roof rack items at very reasonable prices and that was certainly true of the Pendle Rack.

I eagerly awaited the arrival of the bike rack, almost like an expectant father. Roofbox did not let me down, rapid delivery to my place of work in plenty of time for my test run for the Great Manchester Cycle a few weeks before our holiday.

The weekend before the ride I decided to fit the rack to our roof bars, as we no longer live in the 70’s flat pack world of missing parts and several trips backwards and forwards for missing screws and nuts, I assumed I did not need to go through the check list provided with the rack. How wrong could I be!!

I quickly and easily assembled the main part of the rack body and got it in place to clamp to the roof bars, but wait there is something missing. No maybe I missed them in the shrink wrapped packaging, surely the bottom plates for clamping to the roof bars are still in the box. After several minutes of vigourusly shaking the box nothing, they where missing, unbelievable! A quick email to Pendle to ask for the parts job sorted, but no joy ‘please contact supplier’. Ok fair enough but surely they will only contact Pendle etc etc. A quick call to Roofbox and a very helpful customer service assistant kept me on hold while she rang Pendle and got the parts shipped directly to me  (Roofbox 10, Pendle 0!).

The parts arrived the following day and I fitted the rack to the roof bars, but wait I am two bolts short! A quick hunt through my own spares box and two suitable bolts later rack fitted and set up in time for the Great Manchester Ride.

I contacted Pendle direct about the missing bolts and the over all initial lack of service. I did get an email back from one of the directors offering me bolts but to be fair it was sorted. I really wanted to point out that we are no longer in the era of parts falling off cars and missing bits from self assembly furniture, and that it might be an idea to actually do some quality control on final packaging.

On a positive note the rack does do what is says on the tin and works really well holding the tandem in place very securely, which is all it needs to do. (Pendle 10 out of 10 for functionality). It is not perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing item and maybe not of the highest quality for chroming and powder coating but that does not matter too much.

When we arrived in France I noticed another family with a Pendle rack and asked if they had any problems with supply. They too had bought from Roofbox with excellent service, and yes they too had parts missing for the bike rack, you’ve guessed it bottom plate and bolts. Hmm looks like mine is not an isolated instance. Come on Pendle! Nelson, Lancashire is surely not languishing 30 years behind us all, get your quality control sorted!

jerseyRatingPendleTandemRackFunctionality 90%

Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude (Pendle) 10%

Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude Roofbox 100%

I would recommend Roofbox for bike rack and roof bar supplies, but I might just pay the extra and avoid the hassle of buying a Pendle rack again.

RRP: £162.00 for both versions

Giro Monaco Mitts Reviewed

Giro Monaco Mitts

Giro – Monaco Mitts

I know that mitts can be somewhat of a personal thing and that is certainly true for me. I have being pursuing the perfect set of mitts ever since I bought my first pair of classic crochet backed leather palmed road mitts in the 1980’s.

To be honest not a single pair of modern gel inserted synthetic mitts have ever cut the mustard in comparison to my first pair of classic mitts, that is until I bought a pair of Giro Monaco’s from www.sportspursuit.com, the discount online sports clothing company.

The top of the Giro Monaco’s may not be the longed for crochet cotton but rather a modern nylon/polyester mix, for which I can forgive them, as the mitts are very comfortable. But the, hands down, wining feature has to be the sheepskin leather palms, with no gel inserts but slightly thicker padded areas in the key contact points of thumb, heel of hand and base of fingers.

The mitts have been comfortable from the moment I slipped my hands inside, dare I say they fit like a glove, well a fingerless glove! But seriously they have been the most comfortable pair of mitts I have owned, even twelve months on and over 2000 km of riding in mixed conditions they are providing a far superior level of comfort. As time has passed they have become just like that pair of favourite trainers or slippers the ones you know you will be gutted when they finally give up the ghost. There are some limited signs of wear on the palms but the leather is not splitting or cracking even after the soakings in the rain they have received.

I suspect that they have another 12 months or more left in them but I think it is time to buy another pair to give me time to gently say good bye to a comfortable old friend while taking time to introduce myself to my new friend.

GiroMittsCSReviewRatingWhat will I replace my old friends with? Yes you’ve guessed it another pair of Giro Monacos. They get aCyclingShorts.cc Star Buy Rating!

Rating 95%

 

Giro Monaco Mitts at Amazon