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Chris S

Chris S

Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on June 8, 2015

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This helmet is expensive, but it's optimized for racing and is really for those who don't simply want "good enough" but insist on quality in every aspect of their helmet: looks, safety, functionality, weight, and comfort. The Protone has this in spades. My other helmet is a Louis Garneau Course, a primo road helmet that I liked and was the best I had owned up to this point, but it just seems crude in comparison to the Protone in just about every aspect.

This helmet is designed to combine ventilation with aerodynamics. I've done 20-minute hill repeats in 80 degree weather and the helmet does not add to the suffering in terms of weight or me burning up. The ventilation simply works. All that reminded me that the Protone was there was a single trickle of sweat down the glasses. The front sweat pad is the best I've yet seen and a feature that I did not guess existed but has now spoiled me. With the LG Course, I often got a steady stream of sweat and sometimes have to stop to squeegee the front pad. Plus, the pads would leave indentations on my forehead that wouldn't go away for a few hours. These are minor annoyances and typical of the other helmets I've owned (and so, not a slam against the Course), but Kask took these problems seriously and made the effort to fix them.

This is just one illustration of how the attention to detail is a cut above. The other padding is superior to that of any helmet I've had, dense and plush. The fit is ridiculously adjustable, at least compared to what I'm used to. There's a synth leather chinstrap, which won't get crusty and chafe as you sweat all over it. Racing is hard enough and I have to wear a helmet anyway--these details help me stay focused rather than distracted by petty discomforts.

The aerodynamic qualities can't be quantified by me, but they're plausible from looking at the helmet design. The leading edge, where there's usually a high air pressure point, is a vent. Within the helmet are air channels to direct the air over the head and toward the back vents. The front structural parts of the helmet shell are concave in shape, something you can't really see in the picture--rather than the air hitting them and then hitting the side of the vent (and increasing drag), the shape when you're at speed deflects the air over the vent or channels it over the back of the helmet. How cool is that? The back part is plainly aero, a smooth shell with a snub back and even a slight tail. If you turn your head or are getting whacked with a cross-wind, you won't pay as high a price in drag. The helmet actually feels more slippery than the Course.

I can't speak of the safety features until I crash and smack my head on the pavement, but this helmet is certified as meeting the same standards as any other road helmet in the US and looks very sound. If you view a helmet as simply a safety device and nothing more, the cost of the Protone will be hard to justify. And that's okay. Those of us who race often value the performance aspects, comfort, and are vain enough to want our gear to look awesome. If some of the attention to detail that Kask has put into this helmet matters to you then I'm not sure you can find a better lid.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on March 27, 2015

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I bought these as racing tires. The Open Corsa is arguably the best tire you can buy for rolling resistance, which is what happens when your energy gets soaked into deforming the tire as it contacts the road rather than pushing you forward. For example, to go the same speed with Gatorskins vs the Open Corsas you have to constantly work about 20 watts harder. That's a lot of power wasted. Buying a racing tire is the cheapest way to get faster with no additional effort. Because the tire is soft, the cornering has (so far) been superb. In fact, I've never ridden a tire that could inspire as much confidence as these in a turn. But the very virtues that make them great for racing means that they're going to wear out fast and probably flat more often than a training tire. To minimize the chances of a flat, I run latex tubes. This not only helps even more with rolling resistance and comfort, but latex is better able to tolerate little pokes from whatever slivers I pick up.

When training, I leave a Vittoria on the front--front tires hardly wear at all--and a Continental 4000S II on the back. This lets me have fun cornering while still providing decent rolling resistance and puncture protection where it's usually needed most (in the rear). Even so, the Open Corsa picked up little slivers of rocks while the Conti so far has no marks or cuts. So, again, this is a soft and delicate tire that will reward those seeking speed and handling, like racers--this is NOT for people who value durability.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 21, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Saddles are a personal choice, so this saddle may or may not be for you. I bought this to replace a cheap Prologo Kappa Evo saddle. As saddles go, the Prologo was fine in many respects and I've ridden centuries on it. But in road race breakaways, where I would often be in the drops and needing every watt of energy, my lower regions would actually start to go numb from the perineum region being compressed. On the longer rides, even when not in the drops, my nethers would feel fairly abused. This indicated that I could benefit from a saddle with a cutout or at least a relief channel.

There are many saddles with the required features. The Arione has a superb reputation and many of my racing friends use the regular version of the saddle. If you don't need the relief channel, the regular version is a little bit lighter. On this one, my sit bones are perfectly comfortable and, because of the minimal padding and clean design, chafing hasn't yet been an issue. If I'm in the drops, I can still go numb; however, that's usually because I'm off-center on the saddle. I simply shift my perineum area properly into the channel and the problem goes away. Otherwise, I don't even notice the saddle--which is exactly how it should be.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 17, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This is what I use on my race bike and I probably should put it on my beater bike as well. Bar tape comes in all kinds of thickness. This one is thin and really helps with having a secure grip on the bars. It installs easily and stretches out for a nice, clean, tight fit.

Vibration and numb hands aren't a problem at all, though much of the reason for that is probably a function of having a professional bike fit (i.e., hand problems usually occur because too much weight is on the hands rather than the other contact points). Thick tape can't offset a bad fit. But if you've been properly fitted and appreciate a clean look and the feel of control, get this bar tape with no worries.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 14, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Zipp's updated its Tangente line so this one's going out of production. But for $40 it's an unbelievable value. Buy them.

Whether these tires are much more aero than the competition I cannot say--the dimples purportedly save one watt. That won't win you any races, but every watt helps I guess. The 290 tpi brings the tire fairly close to the best racing tires in terms of suppleness. What little information I could find reported that the rolling resistance of the Tangentes was pretty low. So these aren't in the same class as the, say, Vittoria Open Corsa Evo tires; however I have no complaints especially when these are paired with latex tubes. Comfy and fast. The rear tire will probably wear out somewhat faster than a Conti GP4000s will, but I like these better for racing. The front tire seems to show barely any wear after some thousand or so miles.

I have to confess that I'm going to miss these tires. My rims are fairly narrow and this iteration of the Tangente offered a 21mm width that worked perfectly with my Zipp 60s and Boyd Rouleur wheels. The newer Zipp tires are too wide for what I need and would disrupt the airflow of the wheel. Wider may be better, but if aero advantage is what you're seeking then you need to consider the wheel and get a tire that won't mushroom out.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 14, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

These bars will impress--they just look fearsome. But more than that, there's an performance advantage to the airfoil shape of the tops. First, the tops are actually more ergonomic if you use them for climbing. Second, Cervelo, finding that the handlebars contribute a just a bit less than 20% of the drag of a bike's frame, is now equipping its S5 with its own aero road bars. Every watt you save means extra work for your competition. If you often use the "praying mantis" position you may want to tape everything as you would with regular bars, but I prefer to leave the tops free in order to save every watt I can.

I don't notice any problems with road vibration or much flex when sprinting hard. The drops are well designed and easy to reach. The internal cable routing seems well designed and easy to use.

As noted in one of the comments below, the bar is not designed for clip-on aerobars or is it well suited for a barfly computer mount (unless you have a narrow stem, I suppose). So long as you have a round stem you can mount a computer there, but if you do as I did and pair the bars with a Zipp Sprint stem it makes mounting really awkward. Fair warning.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 14, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I really like this stem and I use it with my Vuka Sprint aero road bars--a perfect match that really makes the bike's cockpit look formidable, even beautiful. I've no complaints at all with the performance, though I'm not enough of a connoisseur of stems to distinguish unacceptable levels of flex or vibration. So far as I can tell, everything stays exactly where it should and I have no problem sprinting hard.

If there's one criticism that I have, it's the fact that it is extremely difficult to mount a computer on it. No big deal if you have regular road bars, but the airfoil shaped Vuka Sprint bars offer no clean place to mount a computer either so I've had to buy water filter o-rings and superglue them onto the computer's mount to keep everything in place over the top of the stem; however, I hate the positioning because it undoubtedly destroys the aero advantage of the bars. 3T has a similar stem offering that has the ability to have an integrated mount in the faceplate, and I hope that Zipp eventually designs a similar accessory.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on May 20, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This is Zipp's entry-level carbon wheelset, but the aluminum braking surface makes this wheel somewhat unique in the product line-up. If one is concerned about braking on steep descents, and the thought of a tire blow-out or activating the brake and having nothing happen is scary, these are the answer. But the Firecrest represents the most aero wheels in the Zipp line--the 60s are one generation removed from the best in that respect. So one star off for that.

These wheels, or any deep carbon wheel, won't produce huge increases in speed. Commuters will find it hard to justify the cost. But racers are at a competitive disadvantage to those who use deeper section carbon wheels. How many watts of energy saved is difficult to estimate because it varies based on wind angle and speed (plus Zipp doesn't have aero data for these wheels up). If the Zipp 60s save 10 watts, that's a fairly negligible amount of mph but HUGE difference in effort. Making someone else work 10 watts harder might be just enough to push them past their limits.

As for weight, the 60s aren't the lightest but they are comparable to similar offerings by, say, Campagnolo. They aren't a particular liability on rollers or moderate climbs. The aero benefit disappears only on really long climbs at 7% or more, like the Alpe d'Huez. If one is frequently climbing up Mt Washington these won't be the best choice. But they're a fine all-purpose wheel.

These generally handle well in crosswinds, but sudden hard gusts particularly at speed can be scary. If wind is a concern, go with a shallower front wheel.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on May 20, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

(Updated) I've used this helmet for over a year. As is obvious from the picture, the Course looks rather like a compact regular road helmet but with an unusual vent scheme. Where most aero helmets present a smooth surface to the wind to limit drag, the Course is designed to simply let air straight through. So ventilation is what makes the helmet aero. Exactly how many watts you'll save at race speed I cannot say. Assuming it works, and it seems to, this is a clever solution to helmet aerodynamics. Looking at the helmet straight-on, the structural parts of the helmet present a minimal profile to the wind, so air flows right through almost as if nothing is there.

No question that this is an expensive helmet, and its target audience is those who race who are looking for marginal gains. If you're a commuter who simply wants to get somewhere fast, this kind of helmet won't increase your speed enough to justify the cost. In bike racing, even a savings of 5 watts means faster recovery, fewer matches burned, and more speed in a breakaway or pursuit situation. For them, this helmet can be worth its cost. But this is also a first-generation aero road helmet and there may be better options if performance is the key variable in a purchasing decision.

Summary of the advantages: First, the helmet is aero, at least in the optimum position(s)--headwind and head tilted just so. Second, the helmet looks good. Third, the adjustment system works efficiently. Fourth, I love the LED light that comes with the helmet and attaches to the back harness so drivers can see you.

The downsides to this helmet, as I see them. First, I don't think the helmet is well designed to handle crosswind situations and may be as bad or worse than a non-aero helmet. This is speculative, but it is hard to believe that the structural ridges handle wind well from the side (which can happen simply from turning your head, too, as well as from a crosswind). Second, the internal padding is not exceptional and will absorb sweat quickly...eventually to trickle into your eyes. Third, the padding has a tendency to leave indentations on my forehead. As another reviewer mentioned, it's kind of Klingon-like.

I can recommend this helmet, but only if the opportunity arises to get it at a discount (or for aesthetic reasons). At full cost, there are more recent designs that offer better performance and look pretty good too.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on March 9, 2014

5 5

Power is the only way to train effectively. Speed is too dependent on weather or traffic. Heart rate is too dependent on sleep, age, and health. Perceptions of exertion are often misleading. But watts don't lie. If you're able to crank out more watts, you're getting stronger. With power, you can train with incredible efficiency and see exactly where your weaknesses are and plan accordingly. In a race you'll know if you can go harder or have to back off. On a long climb, you can sit on your best number and pace yourself up while everyone else around you is going too hard and blowing up.

Powertap is one of the least expensive power options and works very well. Spinning the wheel wakes the PT up, allowing it to be read by any ANT+ head unit. It can also estimate cadence, so you won't need a cadence sensor. Do a manual calibration before you ride and you're all set. Maybe the hub weighs more than a regular hub, but you won't notice. With many power units it's a matter of something gained/something lost. A crank unit forces you to use the same bike. The PT forces you to use the same wheel, but you can move it between different bikes. If you use different wheels, you can buy two and build them into two wheels for the price of one Quarq.

Saris is great to work with--my end cap started transmitting intermittently and after a phone call they mailed me another one right away. It works perfectly now.

I had mine built into a Zipp 60 rear wheel. Since the hole placement called for j-bend spokes, I went with the DT aerolite bladed spokes rather than the standard Sapim CX-ray.

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Chris S

Chris Sposted an image about on August 14, 2013

Fit picture

I have thin arms and am 69" tall with arms of regular length--this is how the smalls fit on me. The warmers are stretchy, so you should actually be able to wear your regular size with these unless you've either been lifting weights or enlarging your arms with peanut butter cups.

I bought these in red--normally people go for black, but you can see that red should work pretty well with a lot of different kit. (In fact, completely mismatched kit in my case :D).

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on August 14, 2013

5 5

Wore these on a cool (low 50s), damp, and very windy ride and my arms felt comfortable--they neither got too hot through a hard effort nor did they get chilled. Simply perfect. I have long sleeved jerseys but the arm warmers extend the use of my short sleeved jerseys deeper into the year.

I normally wear mediums in Castelli but I have the usual cyclist's noodle arms and so bought these in a small and am glad I did. The warmer stayed put on my arm--no tugging or adjusting on the ride was required at all. The gripper was not too tight. They are oh-so-slightly longer than I needed, so the small can fit someone who is average height.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on August 10, 2013

5 5

I haven't worn this one on scorching days--I have the Castelli open mesh base layer for that. But this one is comfy and unobtrusive on more temperate days and could even do well for days where you need a long-sleeved jersey.

A base layer may seem like a pointless expense. Until you crash and get road rash on your back because your jersey got shredded and you didn't have any more protection. But I have yet to feel soaked from sweat, which is the main purpose here.

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Chris S

Chris Sposted an image about on August 3, 2013

Jersey fit

I have an older iteration of this jersey, one with 3/4 zip, but the picture gives a good idea of how this particular line wears, sleeve length, etc. As noted in my review, this is a medium on a 35" chest--looks almost like a skin suit. I pair the jersey with the Castelli Endurance shorts.

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