• Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Review

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Review

    The Garmin Forerunner 735XT delivers everything you could want from a triathlon watch and more. It is designed for elite athletes and people who are serious about their training progress, but it is suitable for the more casual exerciser too. It provides wrist-based heart rate monitoring, all-day activity tracking, and will take you from one sport to another with just the touch of a button.

    Advanced Features

    The 735XT is more than just a running watch. It records your stride length, time balance, and more while running (although many of the running metrics features are only available when the watch is paired with a chest-based heart rate monitor), and will calculate your VO2 Max and predict race times based on your training history. It also offers lactate threshold estimates but, again, you will need an additional chest-based heart rate monitor for this which is not included in your £399 purchase of the watch.

    Technology

    The Forerunner 735XT is smart and will connect to your phone seamlessly through Bluetooth to provide notifications from your phone, automatic uploads to Garmin’s online community, and live tracking of your training. Syncing the watch with your phone is very easy and has worked every time without any issues for me. The GPS signal is very strong and the watch links up very quickly so that you can get on with your sport without having to wait around for your watch to be ready. 

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Product Review Activity Tracker

    As a multisport watch, the 735XT is not as advanced as some of its siblings like the 935, but it still provides excellent support. It has a triathlon function so that you can time your transitions and switch between sports with just one press of a button. This feature also translates to duathlons and brick workouts for your training. If you only run, then this watch is perhaps too unnecessarily advanced for you, and you'd be better suited to a Forerunner 235.

    Practicality

    The all-day activity tracking is a fantastic bonus feature on this advanced watch. The wrist-based heart rate monitor works all day while you’re wearing it and will provide you with a resting heart rate, recovery heart rate, and a graph of activity over the last 4 hours. This is really useful for heart-rate zone training, especially as the stats provided after your workout will tell you how long you were in each heart rate zone while you were active. The watch also provides you with an estimated VO2 max which is great for serious athletes. Part of the all-day activity tracking also includes step count which can be a great incentive to move more, especially on rest days. The watch also syncs with apps like MyFitnessPal so that your daily calorie burn is automatically taken into account when you track your food for the day.

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Product Review

    A Closer Look

    The watch itself is light at 41g and the watch face is not as big as some of the other Garmin watches like the 235 or 935, so it is better suited for all-day wear. It has a rubberised strap for comfort, although once you're super sweaty after a tough workout, you don’t really want to keep it on as it gets a bit uncomfortable. The various displays are user-friendly and although the watch has a lot of features, they’re easy to find so you don’t feel like you're missing out on useful training information.

    The battery life of this watch could be better, especially as it’s designed to be used for triathlons; I wonder whether it could last a full-length Ironman event.

    Verdict

    On the whole, I am so impressed by this watch. Garmin has found the perfect balance between the casual running watch and the advanced athlete's companion. It gives more than its cheaper counterpart the 235 and is more user-friendly than the more advanced 935. It is perfect for serious triathletes but can also comfortably be used by people who may just be getting into the sport or who just like to swim, bike, and run. It has the option of more advanced training stats if you really want to go into them while keeping the useful everyday information at the ready. 

    Comfort: 9

    Durability: 10

    Battery Life: 6

    Technical Information: 9

    Value for money: 10

    Overall Score: 44/50

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Castelli Gabba 2 Long Sleeve Review

    Castelli Gabba 2 Windstopper Cycling Jacket Review Sundried

    The Castelli Gabba 2 is a soft shell, wind-stopper jacket and is an upgrade from the Gabba 1 that is a piece of kit you need to add to your cycling wardrobe. 

    The Gabba is designed for foul weather and every last detail of the design has protection in mind. After a 2-hour ride in -2 degrees Celsius, my core was still a bearable temperature, although my hands and feet felt like they were going to fall off!

    Gabba Windstopper Technology

    Comfort

    This really is a nice fitting piece of kit and although a tighter fit than the Gabba 1, it is not restrictive at all. The neck has a really nice lining that wicks away sweat. The cut and stitching have the consideration of comfort and protection from the wind. 

    Gabba 2 Soft Neck Liner

    Arm Logo Castelli

    On the chest, the vented openers are much easier to open one-handed than on the Gabba 1 and provide a quick way to allow in some much-needed air ventilation without having to open the front zip and suffer from an aerodynamic disadvantage of a flapping jacket.

    Front Zip Covered to Protect from the wind

    Technical Design

    The Gabba 2 is so smooth that the cold seems to bounce straight off it. Aero development means the wind will pass on by, so not only will it keep you warm, it will make you dynamically faster. Designed for an outdoor active lifestyle, the Gabba 2 offers maximum breathability; the fabric allows for moisture vapour to easily escape. If you have ever ridden in a fully waterproof jacket, you may have found that you ended up dripping wet anyway from the sweat. The Gabba 2 protects you from this and keep you drier. 

    Rear of the Jacket - Pockets and Reflector

    Castelli Rosso Corsa

    The Gabba 2 jacket has the Rosso Corsa stripe on the chest which is the international motor racing colour of cars entered by teams from Italy. Castelli uses this badge for their products dedicated to speed and performance. Castelli Rosso Corsa products can help with blood flow, muscle support, and temperature regulation, as well as smoothing the air flow around the body in real world situations. This means that the Gabba 2 is highly fine-tuned to be aerodynamic and allow you to achieve your best performance ever.

    Castelli Gabba 2 vs Gabba 1

    I have been riding wearing the Gabba 1 since 2013 and it has been used at least twice a week. The jacket has been the core and default choice for most weather conditions. Used all year round, the jacket really has lasted and earned the price I paid for it. The Castelli Gabba 2 has improved upon the Gabba 1 in many ways, from the covered zip on the chest to air flow in the back of the jacket, easier zips to open, improved waistband, and a better cut. The fabric has developed and offers more warmth and wind protection. 

    Castelli Gabba 1 Vs Gabba 2

    Posted by Daniel Puddick
  • POC Crane Commuter Helmet Review

    POC Crane Commuter Cycle Helmet

    POC is a Swedish company whose mission is to save lives with its safety gear. The company was founded in 2005 and made its first marks at the ISPO Trade Show in Munich where it primarily addressed the skiing market. At the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, US alpine ski racer Julia Mancuso won the gold medal in giant slalom and pictures of her wearing a POC helmet and goggles were published all over the world. Since then, POC has evolved and developed protection for different categories including free-skiing, snowboarding and bike disciplines.

    For commuting on your bike, you may not want to wear a racing helmet, so the POC Crane commuter helmet is the perfect solution. The POC commuter helmet is a cross between a typical skate-style helmet, an aero road helmet, and a standard commuter style helmet. 

    Features

    • Dent-resistant construction
    • Progressive core dual density liner
    • Lightweight design 
    • Full wrap shell for increased durability
    • Odour-control technology

    POC Crane Commuter Helmet

      The commuter helmet is a term apparently used first by by Bell in 2004 when they introduced their Metro model. To most it means a rounded in shape helmet rather than the typical elongated road helmet that we are more used to seeing. 

      POC Crane Commuter Helmet Cycling

      Protection

      Protection should be the first thing you consider when buying a helmet, but realistically it may not be a consideration at all. Most people I know when buying a helmet, 90% of the choice is looks and colour. Let's assume the CE mark will protect us. It's a polycarbonate shell, so that will take care of most knocks and bumps. It has a thick layer of polystyrene material inside that (of course it will be a more fancy and dense substance than what your TV is packaged in) and plenty of padding. I would say as helmets go this will offer top protection. 

      Ventilation

      Ventilation is a big consideration when buying a typical road helmet, especially if you are planning a big tour in Europe in summer, although it is probably less of a consideration in the UK. This helmet has 10 large vents and the padding keeps a nice air flow round your head making it surprisingly well vented. 

      Padding

      Being used to a typical road helmet, I found this helmet much thicker in material and thicker in padding. I am not crash testing this, or hitting it with a hammer, but I would rather be wearing this helmet if I was to take a blow to the top of my head. The padding makes this helmet feel like it is sitting on a velvet cushion on your head. Luxury at its finest!

      In the rain

      There is no visor on this style of helmet so any rain is coming straight down. However, as the material is fairly thick around your entire head it does have about 1 inch overlap on your head. Less than a typical visor but still enough to keep a bit of rain out of your eyes. 

      POC Crane Commuter Helmet Profile

      Fit and Adjustments

      POC Crane Commuter Helmet Magnetic Strap

      Under the chin, the commuter bike helmet fastens with a magnetic clip and the length can be adjusted from one side. At the rear of the helmet are two push fits so you can change each side independently to get a snug fit on your skull. It is very easy to get a nice snug fit and it stays in place. Sunglasses will sit under the straps on this helmet. The straps come from the centre and meet under your chin. It is not possible to have the arms of your sunglasses over the straps. 

      Verdict

      Overall, this is a really comfy helmet and it feels solid and well made. It is definitely a design statement and if you are after a commuter-shaped helmet then this is an excellent choice. Great fit, nice padding, and importantly looks very cool. 

      Posted by Daniel Puddick
    • Lifeline 375 Lumen Front Line Light

      Lifeline Front Light Review

      The Lifeline 375 Lumen Front Line Bike Light is simple to use and very affordable. Weighing in at 115g, it isn't too heavy and from the casual to the committed cyclist, it offers a great light that will see you down some pretty dark roads.

      Some people prefer something with a lot of Lumens, and with lights going much brighter than this, there is a lot of competition on the market. However, lights with more Lumens do end up coming with a higher price tag. It is worth considering what you expect your light to do before spending over £100 on one bright enough to light up a whole road.

      The Lifeline is perfect for a number of activities both on and off road. I tried it on well-lit streets as well as darker paths and felt safe in that I could be seen by other road users as well as see in front of me.

      The light has three modes, all accessed by a single button on top. The first mode is high-beam which will last around an hour. If you use this one constantly it is worth being aware that it will run out quite quickly and I would only advise using this when you really need it due to its time limitations.

      The second mode is low light which will last a respectable 4 hours and this is perfect for commuting. The third mode is a flashing mode, again good for commuting and increasing visibility and you get around 9 hours in this mode. If your journey is a mix of dark paths and lit streets, it is really easy to quickly change between modes.

      Charging the light uses a USB cable meaning you can easily recharge it at work before your journey home. It takes 4 hours from a dead light to be fully charged again.

      It comes with a really easy-to-use bike mount and has three rubber size adjusters, fitting the majority of handlebars. It is quick to get the light on and off the mount, even with gloves on. The same goes for operating the light with gloves on. The button is easy to press with or without gloves.

      The light is hooded meaning that the beam has a slightly longer top than the bottom. This works really quite well and doesn't then blind oncoming traffic, whilst being bright enough for you to see.

      Testing the water resistance of the light wasn't difficult in Scotland. It has rained a lot lately. It is worth noting that the light isn't waterproof (nor does it claim to be), but it is water-resistant so it will withstand a short shower.

      The price of the light is really not bad. If you look around it can be cheaper and it is a good light for the price. It is easy to use and perfect as a multi-purpose commuter/weekend rider light.

      Posted by Daniel Puddick
    • Castelli Flanders Base Layer Review

      Castelli Flanders Base Layer Review

      When you buy a special item to add to your collection it is a nice bonus when it arrives in its own custom box. I see this leaning towards a nice stocking filler for a grown up cyclist! 

      Under Arm Technology

      The Castelli Flanders Base Layer features perforated 100% polyester mesh underarms for additional cooling. On my first test ride it was 9 degrees Celsius which isn't overly cold, but cold enough to layer up, and I found that the mesh does allow your arms to breathe. 

      As with most base layers, not many people will actually see it when you're wearing it, which is a shame as this is some seriously stylish underwear. The detail on the back has the same attention as you would expect from a jersey.

      Castelli Flanders Base Layer Reverse

      Fit

      This top has a very long body which is just what you want from a base layer. There's nothing worse than a cold midriff when your top rides up as you're cycling! The fit is snug and follows the contours of a typical cyclist's frame.

      Light-weight

      As this top is so lightweight it is very quick to dry; I put it on a radiator and it was dry in a few minutes. The lightweight design also means that you will forget you are wearing it so it isn't big and bulky under the rest of your cycling wear. It dos not feel like a thermal item of clothing if that is what you are used to and if you are riding in deep winter, you'll want to wear two of these. As Castelli recommend, doubling base layers is very effective.

      Base Layer under Jersey

      Why Flanders?

      Flanders is a town in Belgium that acts as the perfect location for cyclists of all levels and abilities. Visit in spring for the Tour of Flanders, famous for the cobbled climbs. Riding that takes in history, beautiful scenery, and plenty of climbs and amazing roads. If you visit in the spring or winter be sure to take your new matching Castelli base layer.

      Verdict

      Overall this is an excellent top. Take care removing it when you are hot and sweaty as it clings to your skin. It is pretty thin and I can imagine if you pull it off in a hurry it could tear.

      Posted by Daniel Puddick