Category: Gear

Remember last week, when we posted our first review of Swiftwick’s socks? I mentioned that there were two more pairs to check out, and here they are.

First up, the Swiftwick Sustain One in black:

From Swiftwick’s site:

The only sock on the market created from post-industrial recycled nylon, the SUSTAIN Line is our finest tribute to our commitment to the planet and the earth-conscious athlete in us all. From our refusal to use chemicals to wick away moisture, to our commitment to being made in the USA – we strive to be carbon neutral in our approach. Our philosophy is to conserve and recycle, while creating the best products you will ever wear, guaranteed.


Of the Swiftwick socks I received to review, these were my favorites — the fabric is super-soft against my skin, they wick sweat perfectly, the cuff was just the right length, and they are thin enough to fit nicely in tight cycling shoes. I was a bit skeptical about the recycled nylon material at first, but it has proven to be incredibly durable…although it does collect static electricity and attracts dog hair and fuzz in droves when I’m padding around the house. The Sustain’s compression helped cradle my foot arches and helped prevent cramping (as I mentioned in the previous review).

Next up is the Vibe One in black/red/grey:

From Swiftwick’s website:

Unique in the Swiftwick family, the VIBE line is a little more plush, and a lot more colorful. Using a half height terry loop throughout the footbed, the VIBE offers a highly consistent, thicker feeling with linked toe construction and slightly less compression. To carry the color, it’s flat knit, super thin upper is smooth and snug.


You may have remembered I mentioned in the first socks review that the no-cuff or “Zero” cuff size of the Swiftwick socks wasn’t to my liking? The “One” cuff length, on the other hand, is perfect…nice low tanline and no “Lance’s tall black socks” feel here:


The footbed area of the Vibe socks is a bit thicker than the other pairs, but not unreasonably so. It’s very comfortable, and the thin upper ensures they will fit nicely into the tightest, low-volume cycling shoes. That extra cush is perfect for hike-a-bikes and for rides that include a bit of standing around or walking (my typical commutes, at least). Again, the compression features really do make a difference, even if the Vibe socks don’t have as strong a “hug” against my feet. And, they look great.

The Sustain socks retail between $11.99 and $16.99, depending on cuff length. The Vibes retail for $12.99 to $14.99, depending on cuff length. All in all, the Swiftwick socks are a great value and their features really make a difference on bike rides. Anytime I can avoid foot cramping makes me a happy cyclist!

Check out Swiftwick’s full line of socks for a variety of sports by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

A couple of months ago, I received a treasure trove of socks to test from Swiftwick‘s PR person. We got four different styles to try out, so for today’s review we’re going to start with the shortest and longest of the four pairs.

First up, the Swiftwick Aspire Zero in red:


From Swiftwick’s site:

The ASPIRE™ Line is thin and light for serious runners, cyclists and athletes of any sport. We eliminated the toe seam using linked-toe technology, which means no bunching in the toe box.

Made of a thin synthetic, the Aspires are available in 9 colors, 5 cuff lengths (Zero, 1″, 4″, 7″, and 12″) and four sizes. There is even a military-compliant version, which means (I think) no visible logo on the cuffs.

The Aspire Zeros fit my feet great. I have an unconscious tendency to curl my toes inside my shoes when I am battling up a hill or really putting down the tempo, and that leads to cramps in my toes and foot arches. The compression nature of the Aspire socks helped keep me from doing that. See the whitish band visible under the surface on the photo above? That’s additional elastic that helps support the arch of my foot. That and the ribbing make for a very comfortable, supportive fit, indeed. My foot felt like one solid “unit”, if you can imagine that.

The omission of the toe seam means that even in snug shoes, there is no painful chafing. I think we’ve all experienced socks with pronounced seams in that area, and that’s no fun, especially when you’re out on your bike.

As far as for the cuff length, it’s just a hair too short for my taste — I prefer low cycling socks, but the Zeros were a little too close to the mouth of my shoes, and if they slipped down, there was a bit of chafing around my ankle. I think the Aspire Ones would have been perfect. Still, these lightweights are great on really warm days!


Next up is the Pursuit Seven in black:


From Swiftwick’s website:

Socks born from the same technology and spirit of our synthetic lines with two key differences: The PURSUIT(TM) line comes fused with the natural and thermal properties of super fine, 36 micron Merino Wool sourced from farmers right here in America AND is the only 200-needle compression wool sock on the market. In short, these socks are built of the finest, by the finest.

The Pursuits are made from a blend of Merino wool and synthetic (64% Merino wool, 29% nylon, 7% Spandex). That lends them a luxurious feel against the skin, and makes the socks thicker — perfect for cooler days, but plenty fine for warm days, too, as wool helps regulate the temps. They are available in four sizes, six colors, and six cuff lengths (Zero, 1″, 2″, 4″, 7″, and 12″). The Sevens have a bit of an unappealing “Lance Armstrong’s tall black socks” feel when worn with shorts and cycling shoes. However, the Pursuits in this length are PERFECT for wear with your office attire and regular shoes — they look, but certainly don’t feel, like regular old black socks. All the compression benefits of Swiftwick’s other sock lines are here, and the material feels great against my skin. I’ve been wearing these socks on cooler days and with regular street attire. They’re not bad on hotter days, either, but I like a thinner sock on the truly hot days.

The Swiftwick Aspires range between $12.99 and $35.99, depending on length, and the Pursuits range from $15.99 to $34.99, depending on length. That represents a pretty great value, as both pairs are made from great materials and have the advanced compression and anti-chafe features baked right in. Swiftwick makes a huge variety of other socks, too, all in a host of colors. Check them out by visiting their website.

Next week, we’ll have a review of the other two pairs of Swiftwicks. Stay tuned!

Editor’s note: we’ve touched on the subject of cycling fabric care before — here are a variety of new tips for you to mull over as the weather heats up.

Looking After Your Cycling Clothes
If you’re a regular cyclist, then you know how important the clothes you wear are. They are an investment, keeping you at a comfortable temperature, keeping you dry and always there to prevent soreness and injury. What’s more important is looking after them so you can get the best use and value to ensure you don’t have to fork out for another set of cycling gear over and over again. Make sure that yours last with these helpful tips.


Air It Out
Don’t let your sweaty bike clothes fester in a pile, especially if they are damp. The damp encourages bacteria to form and will make your clothes smell. Airing and drying your garments will prevent this to a certain degree.

Before You Wash
When you wash your gear, make sure that you turn them inside out, and apply pre-wash detergent to the areas that are worst affected.
Zip up any zips and close up any hook and loop fastenings before you wash, as these can damage garments. Place them in a mesh bag to prevent them being tangle and stretched with other items in the wash. Avoid putting them in with jeans or towels. Your cycle gear should be treated as ‘delicates’.

Nothing Too Complicated

The soap or detergent that you use to wash your clothes should be just that. Don’t use scents, dyes or softeners on your cycling gear.
Wash on a cool temperature, and if they don’t smell clean enough for your liking, wash them in vinegar or a specialist sports wash detergent. You don’t want your clothes to smell like detergent either, though, as this can irritate your skin.

Air Dry
If you can, always air dry your gear. Tumble drying can damage the fibres if too hot, so stick to a cooler heat if you have to tumble dryer.

Waterproof cycling gear needs special care, as they are complex garments. Fabrics like Texapore, used on E-Outdoors’ collection of Jack Wolfskin garments, have a breathable, waterproof membrane that lets vapour, but not liquid through. The outer shell is often hard-wearing and coated with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating, which can wear off over time. You can re-waterproof your garments with a wash-in product or a simply spray. Wash in will waterproof the entire garment – though remaining most effective on the outer shell because DWR will only bind to existing DWR. A spray-on will only coat what you spray.


A last tip, always remember not to tumble dry waterproofed garments as they could end up smaller than you’d like!

Tips for Cycling in Unpredictable Weather

Although summer is well on its way, which means sunny (and sweaty!) rides, there are many places where the hottest season can be unpredictable. England for example, is well known for its constant weather variability. The typical ‘British Summer’ is characterized by unexpected showers and bursts of hot sunshine where everyone cuts back on clothing all of a sudden. If you’re one of the unfortunate ones, and this sounds like the summer time where you are, here are some important tips for cycling during an unpredictable season.

Have a Base Layer
You might associate layering with colder, winter weather but layers can also work wonders in warmer weather too. It’s worth investing in a comfortable and high-quality base layer that is both breathable and insulating, as the cutting-edge material technology that is on the market nowadays can work with your body to naturally adapt to different weather conditions. With a base layer you can also add or remove other layers on top according to your comfort level and temperature.

Arm and Leg Warmers
In the summer months, you’ll probably want to keep to cropped cycling pants or shorts and t-shirts or more sleeveless tops. These are great in hot weather but when it starts spitting or getting windy all of a sudden, you need to be able to adapt. Keep some leg and arm warmers to hand to stop off and slip on just in case it gets chilly or you need some extra coverage.

A Lightweight Mac
For any outdoor activity or exercise, it’s imperative to have a lightweight, manageable and comfortable waterproof jacket that you love. Especially when riding to and from work, you need to keep protected just in case the clouds start rolling in. Look for the right material and be sure that is has tight, taped seams to stop water getting in. Mesh lining is an important feature as it allows sweat to escape but look out for too much mesh, as this can make the jacket bulky. One of the best features of waterproof cycling jackets is the dropped tail that covers your lower back and derriere from those dastardly mud splashes, so be sure to look out for that too!


A Protective Bag

Don’t let your important documents, clothes and snacks get soggy on the way to work! To protect you from the wind, mud and rain, be sure to grab yourself a good waterproof bag cover that fits securely over your rucksack. There are plenty of different covers on the market and you can even buy a separate waterproof bag for all of your belongings to save fiddling with the bag cover.


Preparation is key if you don’t want to end up arriving at your destination looking like you’ve been dunked in the nearest pond. Make sure you have all the precautions in place and check-up on the weather conditions regularly for enjoyable cycling this summer.

Detour Bags_Stallion2

I almost felt bad testing out these bags in San Francisco. Detours bags are made to handle the constant drizzle, mud and muck of a Pacific Northwest commute—which makes sense, since the company hails from delightfully drizzly Seattle, WA—the misty fog of the Bay just doesn’t seem like enough of a challenge for the tough, all-weather gear. I said “almost,” because the truth is, these bags are awesome regardless of the weather.

Detour Bags_labeled

Fair warning, there are going to be a lot of photos in this post. The Detours gear is just too stylie to not show off. I had a chance to try a small selection of bags of various styles, sizes and uses. I’ll start from smallest bag and work my way up to the magical three-in-one pannier bag.

Roadie Stem Bag

iphone holder collage 2

I have been on the hunt for a contraption to hold my phone so I don’t have to dig into my backpack to consult the route before getting hopelessly lost. The Roadie definitely does the trick. A simple ratcheted attachment allows you to securely affix the bag to the stem of your bike (my bike, Stallion, who finally gets to be featured in a post, does not have room for Roadie on the stem, but plenty of other spots work great as well).

The clear, water-repellant phone pocket is touchscreen friendly making it easy to access information or refer to your phone as needed. The phone pocket is really more of a flap with a magnetized closure to the main utility pocket. The zip pocket has plenty of room for minor necessities. I fit my patch kit, allen wrench, levers, keys, and ID in there, no problem. The Roadie also comes in gray with a bright green interior (pictured here) and in red with a grey interior. The Roadie retails for $32.

Coffee Dry Bag

coffee bean bag

Yes, you can definitely put your coffee grounds in here and keep them safe and dry. But that’s not the only use for the super versatile Coffee dry bag. Throw in your mid-ride snacks, any electronics you want to keep safe (besides your phone since it’ll be in the Roadie), or maybe protect your other belongings from damp, sweaty bike spandex? The adjustable straps make it easy to secure the Coffee dry bag wherever needed. However, while the top strap is a quick release buckle, the bottom strap must be undone completely, which can be a bit of a hassle.

Detours offers the Coffee dry bag in several different state designs:

• The Evergreen Blend: ride through the forests and around Mount Rainier in our home state of Washington.
• The Mile High Blend: ride through the alpine wonderland of Colorado.
• The Highway 1 Blend: ride down the Pacific Coast Highway in California (pictured here).
• The 10,000 Lakes Blend: ride through the 10,000 lakes and Twin Cities in Minnesota.
• The Lighthouse Blend: ride along the rocky coast in Maine.

The Coffee Bag retails for $20. Or $80 for the set of five. 

Rainier Handlebar Duffel

Rainier Handlebar Duffel Collage

The Rainier Duffel has two adjustable straps to secure the bag to your handlebars and, when you reach your destination, it can transition seamlessly into a cross-body bag thanks to a built in shoulder strap. Plus, the clever folks at Detours designed the duffel with a little side pocket just to hold the shoulder strap so it doesn’t flop around when attached to the handlebars. Attention to detail—I love that. Speaking of detail, the flap of the duffel, which like the Roadie has a magnetic closure, features a sparkly banana design (you can see a better photo here). I think this is a great touch. The zipped interior compartment also contains a smaller zip pouch and two slip-in pockets. The Rainier Handlebar Duffel also comes in black and “Golden Gardens,” a cheery floral pattern. Retail price is $50.

The Ballard Market Pannier

Stallion Kitted Out

Ok, I might have saved the best for last. The Ballard Market Pannier is the most versatile bag of the bunch with three different carrying options (Elizabeth reviewed and loved this pannier back in 2012). First and foremost, it is a pannier bag, which attaches with two simple, yet secure rack clips. The bottom is a heavy-duty waterproof material to reduce wear-and-tear and keep belongings safe. The interior space has a small zip pocket, key hook, and a laptop compartment, making it an ideal commuter bag.

Ballard Panier

As promised, the Ballard Market Pannier is not just a pannier! The bag also has padded straps to carry as a shoulder tote. And the tote straps convert into backpack straps for heavy loads! So clever.

bag to backpack

Overall, the Ballard Market Pannier is a large enough (11”W x 15”H x 5.5”D) to easily accommodate commuter gear—for me, that includes my 15″ laptop, running shoes & clothes, notebook, wallet, and a few other essentials. Plus, this nifty 3-in-1 setup comes in black (pictured here) and two colorful patterns. The Ballard Market Pannier retails for $80.

The bags I review here are only a small portion of the overall variety that Detours offers—from ultra-tough touring rack trunks to playful, more petite seat post bags. I’m confident that riders will find a bag to suit his or her need whether for trips to the farmer’s market, daily commute or more rigorous rides.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.