Just in Time for Gift Giving

It’s December and gift-giving season is upon us. I have three cycling related items that I have been using for awhile that I’d like to promote. They would make wonderful gifts for the cyclist in your life. I’m promoting them because I bought them with my own money and they work, so I thought I’d put the word out that they deserve your consideration when gift shopping.

All of the images were taken from the manufacturer websites. I did this because no one wants to see my sorry butt modeling jerseys and I don’t run behind my own bike with a camera.

DiNotte Taillight

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I’ve been using this wonderful light for several months now, after reading a review of it here.  I had been using a $30 plastic light from one of the big-name cycling accessory companies but it fell off and smashed into a thousand pieces. The DiNotte certainly won’t smash into a thousand pieces because it’s built like a tank. In fact, it popped off its mount back in September and fell to the ground unscathed.

I believe every cyclist should have and use a tail light. If you’re wondering why you need a tail light, then move onto the next review. The 300R comes with a variety of mounting brackets, allowing you to mount a bracket on each of your bikes (you do own more than one, right?) and move the light unit from bike to bike using a quick release clip. The QR is probably the only weak link to the system. If you move the light around a lot, the clip tends to loosen (bend out of shape), thereby compromising the connection. A little finger pressure will bend the clip back into shape and tighten the connection. I check this each time I move the light or take it off for charging.

The light output is astounding. The 300R has three flash modes that are selected using the On/Off switch. I prefer the steady with flash mode that provides a steady light output with flash bursts every second. This allows cars to see the steady light to judge their distance to me, while the flash bursts catch their attention. You can read the full specs here.  The best compliment I can offer is this: on my last club ride, one of the riders dropped off the back. A lot. When he caught up to me he said, “that light is amazing. I was pretty far back there and the only way I saw the group was by your light flashing in the distance.”

Pros: eye searing light output, rugged construction, long battery life (I haven’t run it dry yet, with the longest ride being 7 hours), selectable output modes, customer service.

Cons: QR clip a little sketchy, needs attention.

“What about the price?” you say! Isn’t that an issue? Yes and no. Yes, it’s an expensive light compared to the $30 unit I was using. The $30 unit was anemic compared to the 300R and had craptastic construction; one fall to the ground and it was toast. I’d rather make a multi-year, maybe lifetime investment, on a top quality item then buy fifteen cheap lights. My safety depends on it. You can get the light here, from DiNotte. Their customer service is outstanding.

Road Holland Jersey

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This is the Hilversum jersey from Road Holland.  It is an excellent “poly blend merino wool” (quoting from the website) jersey, made by the Florida-based company. I stumbled across the company by reading a cycling message board; prior to June, I’d never heard of the company. If you are in the market for a jersey, you should know about Road Holland.

I’m not a power consumer when it comes to clothes. My last jersey purchase was three years ago. I tend not to buy a lot of cycling attire because I think much of it looks hideous. Not the spandex parts, the logos! I don’t ride competitively and I certainly don’t represent a team, so I’m not interested in wearing a kit with some company’s logos and advertising all-over it. So when it came time to buy some new jerseys, I had my eyes out for something low-key. Enter Road Holland.

Based on its website, I’d say Road Holland’s marketing strategy is to be exactly that: low-key, understated. None of their items have team logos or funny phrases embroidered on them, just a simple crest on the left chest area. I like that. Simple.

I’m not a fabric scientist so I cannot speak to what “poly blend merino” is and why it works. Here is what I do know about the Hilversum:

  • It’s comfortable. No scratchiness next to the skin
  • It fits properly. Follow the sizing guide and you are set. More of a club fit than race fit
  • It transfers moisture well. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know the specifics. I’ve worn it in August heat and it did not make me feel any warmer than my synthetic jerseys
  • It washes well. This is key!!! Follow the laundering instructions and all will be well. It does not shrink
  • It does not stink. This is starting to sound like a Cat in the Hat book. Really, it doesn’t have an odor like other materials and, as such, you can skip washing it after a light effort

Customer service from Road Holland is excellent. I’m reluctant to order clothes online because I’m fussy about getting stuff that fits properly. The Road Holland experience was effortless and it fit just as advertised. After-sale support is also great. I emailed them to ask some garment care questions and the answer came a couple of hours later, even though it was a weekend.  They run frequent sales; therefore, keep an eye on the website for the latest pricing.

Rapha Long Sleeve Jersey

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Two jersey purchases in the same year. Madness, I say. This is the Long Sleeve Jersey from Rapha.  It’s great. I wish I had another one. If you clicked on the link and thought you hallucinated, you did not. The price is $220.

Let’s get the Rapha = overpriced discussion out-of-the-way. Rapha make designer cycling apparel. Rapha is a British company and its marketing scheme is nothing short of brilliant: cycling is hard work, takes you to amazing places with interesting people and you should dress nicely. No obnoxious logos here. Only the finest material used to construct beautiful garments. They charge a premium for this stuff.

I’ll admit to being sucked in by the marketing. The films on the Rapha website are superb and make me want to ride my bike every time I watch one. Yes, they are commercials. I get  it. My job as a consumer is to spend my money intelligently. My six-year-old long sleeve jersey bit the dust and I needed a replacement. I wanted to try something in wool rather than a pure synthetic jersey. My shopping kept bringing me back to Rapha, with reviewers touting the garments as long-term investments. It didn’t hurt that they were understated and logo-free. During a summer visit to Signature Cycles, I laid hands on a Rapha jersey and understood immediately what the fuss was all about.  These things are smooth as silk with marvelous construction and attention to detail.

Pros

  • No scratchiness next to the skin. No stink, like you’d get with polyester
  • Warm. I’ve worn mine down into low 40’s with just a base layer and have been comfy
  • Lots of little details: headphone cable hole, pocket arrangement, pull string to snug the waist
  • Comfy!
  • Durable construction
  • Washes well. Doesn’t shrink if you follow laundering instructions
  • Prompt delivery with extra goodies in the bag
  • Understated simple look

Cons

  • Price. You get what you pay for. I expect to get many years of use out of this, but $220 is a boatload of money for a jersey
  • Euro fit and fit guide not necessarily helpful

I followed the fit guide and determined that I was right on the dividing line between XL and XXL. I’m 6 foot 2 and weigh about 205. The two issues that plague me with cycling attire are chest girth and sleeve length. I hate looking like a sausage and there’s nothing more annoying to me than having a long sleeve shirt that only extends to the top of my wrists. I went with the XL and chose unwisely. Rapha uses a Euro/race fitting scheme and, as such, things fit a bit more snugly than most Americans are accustomed to. I ended up with a bit of the sausage look in the XL,  and the sleeves just barely covered my outstretched arms.  Thankfully, the exchange process is painless. The original shipment included a return shipping label, so I logged into my account and requested an exchange. My XXL arrived about a week after I dropped the XL at the UPS store. I’m a happy camper in the XXL.

You owe it to yourself to try a wool garment for cycling. I’m very pleased with my two jerseys and I have a Rapha wool base layer that also works very well. My advice is to try them on ahead of time or, if you can afford it, buy one of each size you might need and return the one that does not fit.  I can say with all honesty that the Rapha stuff is worth the money, particularly since you will get the benefit of the investment for multiple seasons so long as your size does not dramatically change.

Happy shopping.

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About robertkerner

Educator, registered nurse, attorney, inquisitive mind
This entry was posted in Bicycling. Bookmark the permalink.

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