BIKES AND ACCESSORIES
While there are many reviews covering bikes and bike accessories on the web, they are often written by professionals who have many years experience either as riders and/or as journalists. I have found that often these reviews have a bias towards the 'top end' of the riding market and as such do not always cover the matters that really interest part time riders. For example, the fascination with getting various parts of the bike, such as brake rotors or the frame, to be as light as possible always seems to be overkill for most casual riders. Besides price and the overall weight, it seems to me that your older rider is more interested in comfort, ease in climbing hills, stability, etc. So this section of the Reviews tab is devoted to user reviews that might help readers make their decision about which bike or accessory to buy.
Please use the Contact page to compile and submit your reviews. Please keep your review current and limit it to 400 words describing when and why you purchased the item and your assessment of how, in your estimation, the item has performed. To get the ball rolling I will start with reviews of my Specialized Creo, a Wahoo Element Roam bike computer and a Garmin Edge 530 bike computer.
Specialized Turbo Creo SL e road bike 2020 *****
I purchased my Specialized Creo e road bike in March 2020, right at the start of the COVID Pandemic. This meant that when it arrived, getting it fitted to suit my needs was impacted by being unable to enter the bike shop. Instead the fitting process was done at a distance and it certainly took longer to get the bike fully set up, especially in relation to seat positioning and getting a comfortable ride. One of the good things about Specialized is when you buy a new bike you can keep changing the seats till you find one that suits you, although there is an initial base price and the bike shop keeps adjusting up and down depending on your choice. Back in 2015 when I got my Roubaix I went through about six seats till I settled on a triathlon gel seat for comfort. By 2020 my backside had become used to riding a road bike and after starting with my Roubaix seat I switched to a Specialized Mimic (see separate review).
As to the Creo, it has been superb, I have ridden over 7000 kms between March 2020 and January 2021 and only have praise for the bike. I have done some long rides with big climbs and the Creo has allowed me to ride with the young/fit guys.
I regularly clean and oil the chain and recently replaced it as it had stretched a little (not surprising given my weight). The Specialized Mission Control on my phone keeps track of my rides and I am pleased to advise that the suggested 120km range on the main battery and the 60km extended range battery both have yet to be really tested. On most rides the Mission Control reports that my battery usage ranges from 27% - 33% and I usually have used Eco mode for upwards of at least 90% of the ride. Just before writing this review I completed the Strava January Gran Fondo which is a 100+km ride in one day. With over 700m of climbing and 102km under my belt I got home with my main battery showing I had used 50%. I did not take the battery extender for this ride. With both available I would assume I could easily ride 200+km between charges.
These are an expensive bike ranging in price from $9000Aus to $18000Aus, but at each price point the bike is superb. As the price increases so does the quality of the bike and the quality of the add ons such as the Shimano fittings. The bike comes in at less than 13kg with battery range extender added and it rides like a dream. The Specialized developed titanium electric motor is fantastic and cuts out once you exceed 25kph. And it is so well balanced and set up that other than on big climbs or into stiff head winds, you find yourself easily riding at speeds in excess of 25kph which is why the batteries last so long!
In summary, the Creo has done everything I have asked of it and my riding experience has been exceptional. This is a bike for road riders who love the experience of riding on roads and bike paths with climbs and variable winds and who from time to time need a little assistance to allow them to keep up with their riding companions who are younger, fitter or simply don't have the physical restrictions that you do!
How did the Creo's perform over a six day tour? (Added March 2021)
We rode our Creo's for 260kms across six days at the AllTrails Slow Ocean Ride along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria in March 2021. This was a ride with nine riders and a support crew of two driving two vehicles. Each day the riding ranged between 40 and 45 kms with minimal climbing. There was only one day where the climbing exceeded 200m in total and that was a day where we climbed just over 400m. Accordingly, we kept the bikes in Eco mode the whole week and we did not need our battery range extenders which we left at home.
With a full charge to start with, we only recharged once at the mid point in Apollo Bay. We had a specialized dual charging cable which came with the range extenders and we discovered that they work fine if you are charging your battery and range extender at the same time, but they do not charge two bikes at once. As we had a weight limit for our luggage we only took the one recharging unit and we found that trying to recharge one bike after the other presented a time problem if you could not keep your bikes in your room. This problem was further exacerbated when we had accommodation without easy access to power. Next time we tour we will sit down with the tour staff and discuss when would be the best time to recharge the bikes, even if it means charging the bikes on different nights. On this tour we could have, for example, have recharged a bike on night 2 and the other on night 3 and both would have been fine for the whole tour.
Our bikes were subjected to air borne sand, grit, and sea salt, as well as being ridden on bitumen, concrete, dirt tracks, pot holes and sand. As a result by day five Mary's bike had started to make grinding noises as she rode and by half way through day six the noise got so bad that she ceased riding about 20kms from the end of the ride. Our tour manager examined the bike at the end of day five and could not find the cause, but was able to rule out a bent derailleur hanger as the cause. On our return to Melbourne we took the bike to a Specialized Bike Shop in Hampton to get it fixed and serviced. The shop could find nothing seriously wrong and simply cleaned the bike, degreased and re-oiled the chain and updated the firmware that runs the electric motor.
I had noticed that while I did not have the same noise problems as Mary, my chain looked very dry and dusty, so I degreased and re-oiled my bike too and the riding experience on both bikes dramatically improved as shown by two rides we did in Melbourne after getting Mary's bike back. I took my bike to Cowra for three days of riding last November and on the last day I had noticed that I was getting a grinding noise in some gears as I was climbing. Changing gears alleviated the problem and a chain clean and grease on my return home fixed the problem.
I subsequently discussed the problem with my bike mechanic and we concluded that one or more of the chain links probably stiffened up as a result of the sand and grit and this was caused noises as the stiff links passed through the derailleur and the chain cassette. A thorough chain clean and oil fixed the problem and we agreed that it would be good to avoid the problem by giving the chain a quick clean and lubrication before or after each ride. For a tour with your own bike, all that is needed a small cloth and al bottle of lubricant to be included in your bike support gear.
We had three e bikes on our tour, our two Creos and a hired hybrid e bike for one of the riders without a bike. The hired bike weighed in around 28 kgs and as a result was too heavy to be lifted up to the rack on top of the support van. Our Creos at about 12 kgs each were certainly twice as heavy as the Specialized Roubaixs on the tour, but were no heavier and perhaps lighter than the three regular flat bar hybrids or the steel road bike. As a result they were placed on the roof rack along with the other bikes as the occasion warranted. Accordingly we have since found that if you are discussing bringing your own e bike on a tour, be careful to include its weight so that the organisers respond to your questions from a place of knowledge rather than assuming the bike weighs 28 kgs.
The Creo's were brilliant to ride. We were able to easily keep up with the other seven riders on the flat, the climbs and into the occasional stiff head winds. On days five and six we were riding into head winds off Port Phillip Bay which at times were in excess of 40kph. We rode at the front and often were sitting on speeds around 30kph which meant that we were riding without E assistance. We now look forward to joining a ride with longer daily distances and perhaps some riders who average 25-30 kph to test our e bikes out!
Suspension Dial 2021
On the top of the handlebar stem there is a dial (see photo below) which enables the rider to stiffen or loosen the handlebar to suit conditions. By turning from one extreme to the other the rider can have handlebars that move up and down to counter bumpy rides or no movement at all to help stiffen the ride for steep and windy descents. There is no play in the movement such that it stops abruptly at the end of the movement. On our last day of the Victorian ride Mary hit a bump and her dial popped off. Fortunately she noticed and was able to collect it. It did not just pop back on. Instead it was re-attached as part of the service and we were advised that the service mechanics had seen this problem before, so its not a unique occurrence. As there were no signs that it was about to occur, riders of Specialized bikes with this dial system ( we have seen it on all forms of current Specialized bikes) should be aware it can happen and keep your eye out to collect the dial if it falls off.
Specialized Women's Power Comp with Mimic Saddle 2020 ****
A saddle developed by Specialized for women riders, but which is now also being ridden by lots of men. By mid 2020, even with COVID constraints to outdoor riding, I was finding my new gel triathlon saddle was very uncomfortable and my rides were getting shorter. My bike mechanic suggested that the Mimic seats were finding favour with lots of riders, both women and men and I was able to take advantage of the Specialized saddle policy for new bikes and swap the gel for a Comp Mimic.
The Comp is the base model and I was required to make up the difference in price between the Gel and the Mimic, but the difference was marginal and the outcome was brilliant. The seats come in three sizes and I was fitted to get the right length for me. The improvement was noticeable immediately and now I can ride short and long distances and the discomfort, if any, seems to be limited to the first 10km of so of my ride and is associated with getting my sit bones comfortable. No longer do I get back from a ride in pain around the crotch that is like having torn the skin.
In summary, it looks hard, but is soft along the nose and into the Mimic depression while providing good sit bone support. It has certainly improved my riding experiences.
Garmin Edge 530 Cycling Computer 2021 *****
When I purchased my new Creo, I was using a 5 year old Garmin Edge 1000 cycling computer which was on its last legs - the USB cable wouldn't connect properly and the on/off button had almost fully recessed into the unit making it hard to turn it on and off. I had really enjoyed using the then top of the range 1000 as it did everything I wanted and was easy to read as its screen was similar in size to my smart phone.
In addition to the physical problems, the 1000 did not connect with the e features of my new bike. I had read that the Wahoo Element Roam would do everything that my 1000 was doing plus give me battery and e-mode readings and the screen size would be sufficient for my needs. However, from almost straight after purchasing the Wahoo I ran into problems with getting accurate trip distances and heart rate readings. Despite repeated emails to Wahoo to try and solve the problems they were ongoing and very frustrating.
Finally I had had enough and after lots of research I opted to replace the Wahoo unit with the Garmin Edge 530. My options were the 530, the 830 the 1030 or the 1030 Plus with prices climbing astronomically as the number increased. All units other than the 530 were touch screen units and i opted for the non-touch screen 530 because it would be easier to use and read on the road. It was a little more difficult to set up using the buttons on the side rather than a bluetooth data transfer from my 1000, but once done the screen remains easy to read as it is free of fingerprints and grease from sweaty hands on hot days. I am also looking forward to being able to switch screens, start and finish rides and use the maps in winter without having to take off my gloves.
The verdict, the 530 initially looks small, but is actually easy to read using the 7 data sets screen in which the speed is centrally located and the other data sets radiate out from the speed. All monitored and/or collected data has proven to be accurate and I no longer feel the need to have to use the Specialized Mission Control system on my smart phone. So far, so good!
Bike Hand 2021****
If you are like me and you have weak hands and you use tyres on your bike that are really tight and hard to fit using traditional tyre levers, then you are probably looking for a better way to put your tyres back on your wheel without having to resort to tyre levers and pinching your new tube. Over recent months I have had to start again several times as I pinched and punctured brand new tubes during the process of refitting my GP5000 tyres. They are great tyres and generally don't puncture, but when they do, its been a nightmare for me. Then my friend Jules recommended getting a bike hand or something similar. I looked them up on the web, and they were listed as an accessory on the Cycling Deal website and given the cost of replacing brand new tubes (I usually toss rather than repair tubes) the $Aus17 cost was quite reasonable.
So how do they work, I hear you asking? Its simple really, you push as much of the tyre as you can back on to the rim, leaving about 20cm still to be pushed over the rim as it becomes very tight. Then the lever with the notch is placed on the back rim and the lever with the 'hook' is placed below the edge of the tyre and is used to pull the tyre over the rim. The following link on You Tube will take you to a presentation on how to use the Bike Hand. They make it look easy, and if you have stronger hands than me it might be. I found that it still takes some work and you need to hold the tyre at the point where the tyre is already over the rim so that as you pull the tyre over the rim it doesn't come off the rim further down. It also took me 3-4 pulls along the tyre to get the whole tyre on, but it worked and was much, much quicker than using tyre levers. I would highly recommend the Bike Hand if you are having trouble getting your tyres on.
You Tube - How to Use BIKEHAND YC-3126 Bike Bicycle Tyre Lever Seating Tool For Heavy Duty Tyres
COROS Omni Helmet 2020 ****
24 Aug 2021: To prepare this review I needed a photo and my internet search discovered that COROS has discontinued the Omni and replaced it with the Safe-Sound Road Helmet. However, Omni's can still be purchased and after reading reviews on the Safe-Sound it would seem that if you can, try to purchase an Omni.
In short, the Omni is a great helmet with a few flaws and perhaps its the latter that lead to the discontinuation. So first to the pros - If you have a fairly regular head size and shape, the helmets seem to sit nicely. My partner has a medium and I have a large and both fit well. Having a helmet with bone induction speakers, a built in microphone below the peak and an optional green/red LED light system across the back are all major benefits of the Omni. The speakers and microphone are excellent and even when descending a hill at speed and wind rushing by, you can still carry on a conversation with minimal disruption. A train of trucks passing closely by can impede a conversation, but generally this is not a n issue. The remote control attached to the handlebar allows a rider to answer and close phone calls, to adjust the volume and to move tracks forward and backwards if listening to music. It also allows you to turn the LED lights on or off or have them controlled by a light sensor.
Cons - I have had my COROS helmet for about three years and it had to be replaced by the manufacturer under warranty when one of the sealed speakers began to rattle while I was riding when a component came loose and interfered with the sound. You cannot open the speakers so replacement is the only option if this problem occurs. The replacement helmet has not had the same problem, but my partner's helmet seems to be going down the same track. The other con is that the helmet straps do not maintain their position between rides. Unlike other helmets, the straps are very lightweight and therefore the plastic brackets do not stay in position. The velcro tube designed to wrap around the two straps helps to keep everything in position, but after several months or regular use the velcro lost its grip and eventually the tube fell off and was not recovered.
Conclusion: Overall the Omni provides a safe way using bone induction speakers to both hold telephone conversations and to listen to music. The Safe-Sound helmet seems to have focussed on better design, but according to reviews this is at the expense of poorer sound and listening. I've been experimenting with Airpods as an alternative to bone induction, but so far in colder weather the Omni seems to present a more comfortable and warmer ride with easier controls. Warmer weather will see me wearing fingerless gloves and perhaps will make using Airpods more effective.
Post Script: I was involved in a head on collision with another bike in late 2021 and ended up with a broken nose and stitches across the top of my nose. Following safe practice, I disposed of my helmet as I hit the ground rather hard and the helmet may have been compromised. I therefore went looking for a new Omni Helmet, but I was unable to find anyone with new ones still in stock. Hopefully the problems identified by reviewers concerning the Safe-Sound Road Helmet will be addressed by Coros and I'll soon be back using one of their helmets as the alternatives are also pretty ordinary as my review of the Aftershokz Aeropex demonstrates.
I purchased an Elite Direto XR bike smart bike trainer and I was looking for an app that would provide me with a realistic indoor riding experience. There were several to choose from, with Swift being the flavour of the moment. However, Swift seemed to be aimed at competitive riders and I did not see myself in this category. So after asking around I decided to have a look at Fulgaz, an app that provides video rides on routes all around the world. From ride one, I have loved using it. I was able to sign up for a free trial and if I decided not to proceed there was no worry about having my credit card debited. Once you sign up you get a period free of charge and if you leave and return it knows who you are and you can resume your free period and once it has expired you either subscribe or depart. In my case I was so impressed very early that I quickly subscribed and got the full benefits.
So what did I get? I got access to video rides in a number of categories - long rides, short rides, easy rides, hard rides, group rides, etc. And how does it work? I select a ride that suits me - 3, 4 or 5 peaks denoting difficulty - and a location that I would love to visit. Early on I did a 30km ride around Lake Constance in Germany, an area that I have always wanted to ride around. Someone else has done so and I get the benefit of riding in his shadow and seeing what he saw. Its fabulous.
Having selected the ride, I download it to my laptop so that I avoid data buffeting while the laptop is in action (buffeting causes the video to freeze while data is being downloaded as is best avoided by downloading before you start the ride). I then turn the trainer power on so that the app connects to the trainer, don my heart rate monitor so that it too connects to the app and then select Ride, then Go, on the chosen route and start cycling.
After that you see the ride as the cinematographer saw it. In addition, through the bike computer displayed on the laptop screen (or any other screen device such as Apple TV) I get to see my speed, my heart rate, my climbing data, my power rating, the time of day, how long I have been training, how far I've travelled, how far I have to go and heaps more. The app controls the trainer device which in turn controls the level of resistance of my rear wheel hub cassette.
When the display says I'm climbing with a 15% gradient, the resistance is tough and I need to change gears to try and make it easier. FulGaz allows you to set your desired level of resistance and as I normally ride an e-road bike I've set resistance at just under 50% of the gradient. This works well for me and still provides a great work out. However, there are still rides that look reasonable, but which involve lots of steep climbs. I've done rides that on the screen look like, say, 12% or 13% steep, but have turned out to be 23% and real knee killers.
As the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it, and the more I ride with my FullGaz app the more I appreciate how it is helping me to improve my fitness and at the same time introducing me to parts of the world that I have yet to actually ride through. In addition, the FullGaz people are always providing users with the opportunity to join in live rides, to experience rides in unique locations like South African Game Reserves or to fairly compete with other riders in all sorts of situations. A recent example was the opportunity over a couple of weeks to ride five Italian rides of varying difficulty to compete for a new trainer. You just needed to complete the five rides to be in the draw and it did not matter that I came 29th out of 29 riders aged 60-69 or took twice the total time of the rider who came 28th! It was a challenge I really enjoyed and the I had an equal chance of the winning the prize.
Trainer Accessories. 2021 ****
Soon after setting up my new Elite Direto XR trainer in my garage and linking it to the FullGaz app I discovered that I needed more. Initially I was using the wheelie bin to position my laptop near the trainer, but it was awkward and also often inconvenient if I wanted to train at the same time that the bin was being emptied. After scanning the net I decided to stick with Elite and get one of their IT stands. It looks like a rostrum and has been perfect. It easily displays my laptop right near the right handlebar and it perfectly placed to let me watch the ride as it unfolds.
I started using my new trainer as Spring was starting, although, as it turned out, Spring 2021 was wet and cool. So for the first month or so I was fairly content to train in a sheltered position at the back of my garage. I got a little warm as I spent time on the trainer, but nothing that a sweat cloth couldn't handle. Then it started to warm up and I found myself drinking lots of water and sweating profusely. My wife and daughter then got me the Wahoo Kickr Headwind for my birthday. And what a great gift its been. It connects to my Wahoo heart rate monitor and to the FullGaz app such that when I start pedalling the fan comes on and moderates its flow to match the intensity of my ride. It starts with a fairly full on blast which can be a bit unnerving on a chilly morning, but with a bit of climbing under your belt you really appreciate just how cool it keeps you. I did find that I had it too close to the trainer and was almost blown off, but with a little trial and error I was able to find a good position as the photo shows.
My Trek Domane LT+ by John Thwaite *****
I live and ride in Canberra, Australia and this review covers the first three months and around 1000ks of riding since purchasing my first e bike in late 2021.
I decided to replace my 6 years old Specialized Roubaix road bike with an e-bike as my ageing knees needed some assistance. I consulted Daniel the bike guru at "Bike Culture" our local bike shop. He recommended the Trek Domane LT+ and he was right, it suits me perfectly. The gentle assistance, especially on windy days or on steep climbs, is just great!
The Domane LT+ (see photo) is an e road bike with a carbon fibre frame. It weighs 14.7kg with the drive pack and 11.8kg without. There is an optional cover at additional cost if you don't want to use the drive pack. The total cost was $A9230 and there is only one colour option Radioactive red/Trek black.
The bike geometry is very good and it is really comfortable to ride. A feature I really like is rear "IsoSpeed" which "decouples" the seat tube from the frame allowing it to flex and absorb road vibration. It can be adjusted to suit the rider by moving a slider under the top tube. In all other respects it is a standard looking road bike with drop bars, hydraulic disc brakes, a Shimano Ultegra 11 speed cassette and double chainring at the front.
The power comes from German Fazua Evation e-bike drive system comprising a gearbox in the bottom bracket with motor and battery housed in the down tube. In order to charge the battery a key is used to unlock the battery/motor and detach it from the bike. You take the battery to a power point and charge it. There is a two stage locking lever that helps to protect from accidental dropping. A small removable cover on the outside of the motor is the access point for updating the software. There is also a remote housed in the top bracket to switch the motor on and off.
A series of LEDs indicate the state of charge and enables selection of four drive modes:-
- No support - white
- Breeze - minimal but active pedal support - green (I use this one most of the time),
- River - a little more assistance - blue, and
- Rocket - maximum support - pink.
Two smart phone apps are integral to the operation of the bike.
The Fazua app which enables the customisation of your riding profile. I am using the road bike factory profile which suits me. This app also provides details of all the firmware including the remote, motor and Bluetooth. Total distance travelled and number of charges is also shown.
The Fazua Rider app shows the current charge and estimated distance achievable using each setting. In my case, based on height and weight, it shows 160kms (Breeze), 80kms (River) and 55Kms (Rocket). There is also a map feature.
To date the only issue I have had is with my Garmin 830 GPS which I still use in addition to the apps. The Fazua dashboard is not working on my Garmin. Apparently, this has occurred since the last Garmin software update and efforts are being made to fix it.
In summary this is a great e-bike and I really enjoy riding it.
Pinarello Nytro 2020 ***
We hired these e road bikes at the Lake Garda Bike Hotel (see review above) and preparing this review it became clear that our model which used Sram componetry has been superseded by models using the full range of Shimano componetry. Our bikes were set up for us using data we had supplied in advance and utilising our pedals and saddles we brought with us. These bikes had two chain rings in front and a regular cassette 50/34t at the rear. Without Di2 and the capacity to connect to our Garmin Edges, we found ourselves having to relearn to visually check front and rear gears as we rode.
These bikes weigh in at around 14kgs and were very manoeuvrable. The disc brakes worked well and steep descents were a delight. The e system works through the control on the handlebar which provides basic ride data such as speed, time and distance ridden and a colour coded bar system to advise what mode you are in and how much charge you have left. Green was the Eco mode, while Blue was Sports and Pink was Turbo. These bikes don't have battery range extenders, but the battery can be removed and replaced with a fully charged unit.
Initially we received fairly basic advice about how to ride these bikes from our guides at the Hotel and accordingly when we rode the bikes in a manner similar to our Specialized Creos as we started the 21km climb of Monte Baldo the battery's power charge started to diminish fairly quickly. At this point our guide for the ride saw we riding in the pink mode and advised that we would have flat batteries within an hour if we kept it up. Accordingly we rode in green from then on and used blue when the gradient got above 10%.
My battery was still almost flat by the time we stopped for refreshments at the 16km mark and was replaced, whereas Mary still had four bars and lasted till the coffee stop 5 kms later on when it too was replaced.
Having learnt from this experience, a few days later I rode a 90 km course which included a 5km climb which started with a 500m climb at around 15%. It was a quick ride and I think I averaged around 30kmh with the climb anbd descent removed. I did the whole ride in Green and still had just under 50% battery charge at the end of the ride.
Overall we were very impressed and it certainly our view that e road bikes allow us to be part of a ride in all conditions rather than either falling way behind or having to jump in the sag wagon. The Pinarello Nytros we rode were nice to ride, but well short of our Creos which we were delighted to get back on once we got home.