Etixx Bars & Gels Review

Etixx started making sports nutrition products in 2009 and there are 23 different products including energy drinks, energy gels, energy bars, recovery shakes, recovery bars, vitamins and supplements such as HMB in the range.

The name Etixx comes from the word ethical and they test all batches of product against the WADA list and guarantee they do not contain any banned substances.

 

I tried the Etixx Energy Bar in Lemon Flavour with added magnesium and the Triple Action Energy Gel with electrolytes and vitamin C in Lime Flavour.

The energy bar contains 29g of carbohydrate in a 40g bar, so very similar to other bars on the market in terms of carbohydrate content, but also contains added magnesium (56mg per bar which is around 15% of recommended daily intake) shown to improve energy production and muscle function. The recommendation is 1-2 bars per hour of endurance sport, which is in line with British Cycling guidelines that suggest around 60g of carbohydrate per hour.

The bar has an oaty base with a lemon ‘yoghurt’ style topping. The base is quite dry and would be difficult to chew and swallow on its own I think, but the lemon top makes it much easier to digest and has a pleasant, but very sweet, lemon flavour.

The packaging was robust, but easy to open with teeth mid ride and the bars survived extremes of temperatures and didn’t crumble making them easy to hold and eat whilst riding.

The bars contain gluten, lactose and soya so may not be suitable for those with intolerances. They are also available in chocolate flavour.

They retail at £1.99 per bar or you can try all 3 bars Etixx offer in a trial pack for £5 or find some good deals in the combination packages with energy drinks and gels.

The gels are 40g with 24g of carbohydrate and can be taken without water, but if you consume with 350ml of water they effectively become an isotonic beverage according to Etixx. The electrolytes in the gel help replace those lost in sweat and vitamin C is also included (40 mg) to help support energy production and protect cells from oxidative damage. A variety of sugars are used in the gel therefore releasing energy at different speeds, so you get both the instant hit as well as the longer term energy supply. Again 2 per hour are recommended.

Having tried lots of gels over the years I would say these were average consistency, certainly not runny and super easy to swallow, but equally not ‘chewy’ and an effort to get down! On first taste they reminded me of cough mixture!

At £2.49 a gel they are towards the high end price point, but if you buy a mixed box of 18 you get 15% discount.

It is worth signing up for the Etixx newsletter which has some great offers and often contains useful nutritional advice. The website also contains specific advice for different sports and a great blog.

Flavour 
7/10 overall with 8/10 for the bar with the zingy lemon, but 6/10 for the slightly medicinal tasting gel

Does What it Says on the pack

8/10 great fuel for riding with the added benefits of magnesium and vitamin C

Price
7/10 for buying individually, but some brilliant deals on the website and via the newsletter

Range
9/10 Etixx have a superb range of products covering everything you will ever need for cycling and other sports

Easy to Eat
8/10 the products are a good size, easy to open and easy to eat on the move.

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CS Rating

Hipster Paradise

GuardianSpin London

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.

HipsterSpin 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.

Selva-1024x640A 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.

Fat Lad At The Back (FLAB) Jersey & Shorts Review

 

“You should buy this kit; it’s called Fat Lad at the Back”

“These shorts would be great for you; they are called Fat Lass at the Back”

“This top would suit you; you can buy it from Fat Lad at the Back”

 

IMG_6874People of all shapes and sizes often ask me for kit recommendations, but I am not sure if I can say any of those sentences out loud without losing friends, clients or offending someone!

Fat Lad at The Back was the nickname of Richard Bye, the founder of the company, and is a term of endearment. The company admit it is a touchy subject having the marmite effect – either you love it or hate it, but they bravely persevered.

Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) is a sportswear brand born in Yorkshire, with the clothing manufactured by a family-run company in Italy. The Fat Lad brand was originally created for what their website calls “Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist”, but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists so it introduced larger sizes including a Spare Tyre range for the larger build. A women’s range was soon created, which took into consideration women’s curves and comfort.

A Twitter conversation the morning of The London Bike Show suggested I should speak to FLAB at the show after a discussion about the lack of kit for women who are not “a flat chested size 8-12” with one rider asking “how can these new brands be “women’s” when the biggest chest size they do it a 14” and another saying “it is a huge barrier to women coming into the sport”.

I spoke to several designers of women’s cycling clothing at the show and did indeed find the largest size, called XL, was only a UK14-16. One designer I spoke with said unfortunately they just can justify the additional expenses needed to design, produce and hold stock of the larger sizes which are less popular.

Instead of just sizing up the clothing the FLAB garments have been redesigned so they properly fit and flatter different sizes of rider. Some items state the name boldly in large text across the garments, other are more subtle with just a small logo. I have to confess that having ‘Fat Lass at the Back’ across my bottom was a great training inspiration as I pedalled furiously to disprove the label!

IMG_6904I tried the Flabularse Shorts (RRP £49.99) and the short sleeved ladies Lanterne Rouge Jersey (RRP 49.99) both available from size 8 to size 26.

The shorts fitted well and had some nice details including a draw string for the waist and a soft stretchy panel across the tummy allowing you to pull them right up over the belly area. I normally wear bib shorts and think generally bibs are more flattering with smoother lines, but agree shorts certainly make toilet stops easier and mean there is no need to remove a jersey, which some riders may feel self-conscious about, especially if having to go al fresco! Unfortunately as there was no knot tied in the draw string it had been lost in the waistband prior to me wearing, but with a bit of fiddling I retrieved it. The shorts are black with flattering seams, a large logo on the leg and across the lower back. The pad was comfortable on long road rides, the mountain bike and on the turbo.

The jersey is noticeably longer than my other jerseys, this is great for us ladies who like to pull things down over our hips and bottom and there is certainly no chance of any bare flesh when standing upright. The colour changes gradually down the top with the darker, more flattering colours over the lower torso and brighter colours across the bust and shoulders drawing the eye away from the areas we are usually more self conscious about. The sleeves are loose and long with no restrictive bands. A zipped pocket is handy for your valuables and a full length zip is always a plus in jerseys of this price range.

Both items washed well and I would happily recommend them if I could find a polite way of doing so!

Fat Lad at The Back has become a community, not just a brand, with riders involved in the development of new products and social media filled with riders’ photos, comments and inspirational rides. The company encourages everyone to have a go, have fun and enjoy their sport.

Alastair Little 2Alastair Little 3

When former rugby player Alastair Little was forced to cut his 25-year career short after a life-changing neck injury, he was devastated and soon piled on weight as his life spiralled towards depression. He managed to turn his life around after discovering a love for cycling. Riding with friends at Fat Lad at the Back, Alastair took to the road and after a few months he started to see the results, losing more than five stone and dramatically boosting his confidence.

Alastair said: “It was the motivation and help I received from the guys at FLAB which really inspired me to stick at it and lose the weight and not only that, I enjoyed the social aspect to cycling, and suddenly sport was bringing me back to life again.”

FLAB introduced Alastair to other, likeminded riders who taught him that he wasn’t alone.

 

logo-1FLAB Sportive – 8th May 2016

In a bid to further welcome novice cyclists, FLAB has introduced a new 25-mile event alongside its 50 and 75-mile distance sportives, taking place on the Yorkshire roads in May and in the Chiltern Hills in October. Looking after riders will be experienced FLAMbassadors riding in the sportives to encourage and support riders on the journey.

_D3X2319Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who has 20 years’ experience cycling many of Yorkshire’s most recognised routes, said: “This year we have added a 25 miler as we hope to inspire some new riders who may fancy a sportive, but have never thought they could!”

“The food stops are also legendary and include black pudding scotch eggs and lots of other stuff which our fat Lads and Lasses like, as well as the usual fruit and flapjack based options. We also have a BBQ afterwards which went down really well last year,  this means people hang about and chat and share rather than just getting in their cars and leaving.”

Richard went on to say “Since founding FLAB we have been overwhelmed by how many people have come to us saying how much confidence they’ve gained with our support”

You can enter the sportive here and can find FLAB on the web http://fatladattheback.com/ on Facebook and on Twitter

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

The Cycle Show 2014 NEC Birmingham

BioracerPixel

Bioracer Pixel Jacket

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

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’!!

Jules

Jules Thrasher

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!!

Review – Purple Harry Bike Wash & Polish Mitt

Purple Harry Bike Polishing MittFollowing my high scoring reviews of the Bike Floss (90%) and the Bike Polish & Frame Protector (100%) from UK Company Purple Harry, I now turn to their Wash & Polish Mitt.

It is made from good quality microfibre material and shaped into a three fingered ‘lobster claw’ glove, which according to their website “has been ergonomically designed with the bike’s shape and contours in mind – allowing access to difficult areas whilst avoiding catching on the drive train and snagging in components”.

For this review I will be comparing this mitt with my usual cleaning materials; standard square shaped microfibre cloths bought from my local Pound store!

The Mitt costs at least SIX times more than the cloths I have been using for many years for cleaning and polishing duties, but is it worth the extra expense?

I hit a problem with the Mitt straight away; I couldn’t get it onto my hand.

image2

My hands are not excessively large, but I struggled for a while before having to resort to using scissors to cut the black narrow cuff stitched into the Mitt to allow my hand in. Due to the Lobster claw shape your second and third fingers are forced apart, which felt uncomfortable to start with, but overtime became less troublesome.

Also while working on the bike, because you have two pairs of fingers held together, it restricts how well you can get into those small little gaps and crevices that need to be reached while cleaning or polishing. My natural instinct is to use just the finger-tip of my index finger to get to those more intricate areas, something you can’t do very successfully with this Mitt as the combined width of two fingers stops you reaching as far as you would like.

Also with my normal square cloth I can easily reach every corner on the frame by using it in a flossing action by just pulling one corner into the tight spot, for example cleaning between the rear wheel and chain stays, the gap is far too narrow to get my finger in between.

image3 Another disadvantage of using the Mitt is that the actual area of material that you can use for cleaning/polishing is very limited; meaning that it quickly becomes too dirty or clogged. You have the whole Mitt but in reality can only effectively use the finger tips for finer work and the length of your fingers for working on the more accessible areas.

To use the other side you will need to take the Mitt off and put it on your other hand. This means that it might become too dirty to finish the job, you will have to wash it after every use or you will need to buy a couple more!

My way of working is that I currently have several image4microfibre cloths in use, each one is given a different task depending on how dirty it is; brand new ones are used for dusting and polishing only, but once they become clogged or a little dirty they then move onto drying or light cleaning duties and the previous one used for this purpose is ‘downgraded’ to more dirty tasks and so on until the very last one is used exclusively for chain cleaning work – and once this is oil soaked it is binned and another trip to the Pound shop is made to buy a fresh one to start the process again.

These cloths can be washed too, but as they cost as little as 99p for three it is not worth the effort. As they are square shaped you can use every inch of the cloth, both sides included, and by wrapping your index finger in the cloth with the remainder held in the palm of your hand you can reach those smaller awkward places with a clean patch of fabric every time unlike the Mitt.

From the picture above; in the bottom left is a new cloth, and each one in a clockwise direction becomes progressively dirtier.

image5So, as you can gather from my comments, I would not recommend that you pay £5.99 for this Mitt, instead buy six standard cloths and use a rotation system similar to mine, you will get much more value for money and they’ll do a better job too!

Left, is a comparison of cleaning area between the Mitt and cloths for the same price. Unfortunately I am awarding my lowest score so far, all the effort that has gone into cutting out the shape, stitching it together and attention to detail like adding the cuff and Purple Harry label has not only cost a lot to do, it has also severely restricted its usefulness, which is reflected in my score below:

 

Sorry to the Guys at Purple Harry, I can only give the Mitt a paltry score of 17%.

jerseyPurpleHarryMittReviewRating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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