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Chris S

Chris S

Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on May 5, 2016

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I actually have the Gan 105, which uses a slightly heavier carbon than the Gan S. CC special ordered it for me.

My review might be best understood in terms of the sort of bike I was looking for as well as contrasted to my previous bike. My last bike was a 2009 Cervelo S2. Based on my particular strengths as a racer, I preferred an aero road bike. The S2 seemed to fit the bill, but as I rode it more I began to see the defects of the first generation aero designs. Because of the narrow and deep airfoil shapes everywhere, the bike was stiff in all the wrong places and compliant in the wrong places. During hard efforts (particularly climbs) I could even see the chainring deflect laterally, which meant I was losing power. Plus the bike was twitchier than I would have liked and, worse, difficult to control in crosswinds. If I got a new bike, I wanted these defects fixed if possible.

The Gan ticked all of the boxes for what I wanted. First, it is beautiful. Seriously. The pictures don't do the bike justice. Put a set of Zipp or ENVE aero road bars on and it looks deadly and elegant like a racing bike should.

As a latest generation aero road bike, it adopts the kamm tubing shape that most other brands now use. I can't quantify the aerodynamics, but Pinarello did a white paper on the almost identical F8 and they assert that the bike is invisible to drag until the air reaches the bottles and bottom bracket. Taking a rider into account, I think Pinarello said a rider goes about 6% faster on this bike versus the Dogma 65.1 for the same power. Considering that the frame is only about 30% of the drag, that's not bad. How it compares to other brands I have no idea. A nice touch is the aero stem and spacers. The seatpost clamp, a wedge you can tighten with a hex wrench, is invisible to the wind and very easy to use. There is no rear wheel cutout, but that's often more problem than it's worth since rocks often get jammed in there. Plus the kamm seat tube probably makes it unnecessary.

I can say that the bike handles so much better in heavy crosswinds than my old S2. The S2 was terrifying to ride in those situations. The Gan's geometry, with a lower bottom bracket and longer chainstays than the average race bike, make the Gan very smooth and stable. This may not be to everyone's preference, but I happen to like it. The tubing, helped by the asymmetric seat and chainstays, is rock solid. The amount of flex is slight enough that I can no longer see it. As a result, this bike climbs like a beast. The fork is massive and aerodynamic and it bows outward, which seems to dampen road vibration. The S2, in contrast, transmitted a lot of chatter. That, combined with twitchiness in the steering, made things rather fatiguing after a while. I did my own internal cable routing for the Gan--it's easy, especially if you have a bit of casing from some housing to guide the cables.

There are other options out there for aero bikes, and all are pretty good. This bike stands out for its looks, which are distinctive, the fork, and its geometry. It's a comfortable and confident ride.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on January 24, 2016

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

The Speedplay X is a wonderful pedal, but the Zero is a step above. You get the same quick engagement of the cleat to the pedal, but you also can now control the float and the cleat is much more durable and less prone to breaking, wearing, and failing.

I appreciated the controlled float because my left knee has a tendency to flick out and my shoes frequently rubbed the crankarm when I had unrestricted float, but with an easy adjustment that stopped happening. Plus I got less wasted foot movement while sprinting or doing high-wattage efforts. I also haven't had a cleat failure yet, unlike my experience with the X pedals.

The only issue I've had with them are fairly minor. First, the cleat requires a bit of a break-in period. Once the cleat is worn, engaging the pedal is really easy. Unless fouled with dirt, where it becomes a different matter. Second, the float adjustment screws strip really easily. I can't do any more adjusting unless I buy new cleats.

But all in all these are small things. The pedals work and give me exactly the float that I need. If you race, the Zeros should get your first look.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on January 24, 2016

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

My first road pedal was the Shimano SPD-SL aluminum pedal, which did the job but clicking in was an exercise in probability. A lot of times the tip of the cleat would skim the pedal and I'd be trying to launch out of an intersection with my foot thrashing around trying to engage the pedal. It didn't look very Pro.

These Speedplays are so much better because engagement is superior (being dual-sided) and more forgiving--you just stomp on the pedal and you're good. And if you suffer from knee problems, the free float is a godsend. The float feels weird at first, but just like learning to ride clipless you get used to it and don't notice it after a few rides.

The cons to this particular pedal:
1. The cleat interface is not very durable. I went through several cleats because the metal part would have a corner that would wear or snap off. I've learned this is not a good thing and actually crashed on a couple climbs because the cleat would suddenly disengage from the pedal. This doesn't happen if the cleat is in good shape, but I had to keep an eye on it and with the mileage I did the number of failures was frustrating.
2. Dirt very easily makes cleat engagement difficult. Not to the point where I couldn't get my foot in, but I would have to work it a bit. A small price to pay for dual-sided engagement, though.
3. If you race and are trying to sprint, the free float doesn't help.

So I eventually moved on to the Speedplay Zero, which kept all of the advantages and resolved the weaknesses of the X series. The X is an improvement over other pedal systems and I was not tempted to go back, but unless you need the free float for biomechanical reasons you may want to just go straight to the Zero.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on January 10, 2016

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Pros:
-Removable valve core! If you have deep wheels, this is essential. Michelin latex tubes don't have the removable core.
-Rides like butter. Seriously, butyl feels rougher.
-Lowers the rolling resistance of your wheels by 3-6 watts, saving you at least four weeks of hard interval training to get the same speed.
-Corners better, or at least more confidently, than butyl.
-More resilient to small pokes that get through the tire's puncture protection. Even if there is a puncture, it's usually very slow and won't produce a catastrophic deflation (you know, the "pop-hisssss" or, worse, "BANG!") unless the tire itself somehow gets wrecked. Situations where my tire's been compromised have been pretty much the only way I've gotten flats on the road with these tubes.
-Easier to tell if the tire's been compromised because the pink is really visible, unlike the black of your standard butyl tube.

Cons:
-Latex is delicate and it's easy to get a bit caught between the tire and rim when installing, which will cause a tear when you inflate. You have to check to make sure the tube is safe with each installation.
-If the tire gets a deep nick, the tube will gradually poke out and the road will tear it up. Usually some electrical tape inside the tire will do the job unless it's a really bad nick, but it's something you need to keep an eye out for. It's easy though because eyeballing the tire if you see any nicks where you can also see the pink of the tube you need to take some remedial action.
-Latex will also stick to the tire when you're trying to dismount the tire unless you added talc beforehand. This, again, can make it easy to damage the latex. Adding talc makes mounting easier anyway so it's worth doing for that alone.
-I've had zero luck with glueless patches. The best way to repair is with glued patches. On the plus side, you can tear up old tubes and use them as patches rather than having to buy more.
-You do have to inflate every ride. But I do this anyway and it's...what...20 seconds to do. Big freaking inconvenience.
-You shouldn't use CO2 to reinflate.

Note that all of the cons are general to latex tubes and not these Vittorias specifically. I use these all the time and love them.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on November 4, 2015

3 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I managed to snag these for free when CC was offering its strava discount, so it's hard to complain on that score. They were a great value. :D

I wore these at road races and in time trials for just about a whole season and got good use out of them. I have an 8.5 shoe and a medium fit perfectly. I did have a problem with the zipper coming undone in a race and a time trial, but that may just be me being careless in setting the zipper.

As the other review mentioned, these covers are very delicate. The front material is a thin lycra that's intended to smooth out the air flow over the shoe. Any friction, like grazing a moving wheel with the toe, damaged the lycra. Not badly, but enough for there to be a hole the size of a pencil's eraser. I didn't have any problem getting these onto my shoe--just being gentle was enough. You can wear these in warm weather and not be in discomfort (for one chilly road race, I put toe covers on underneath and was fine). The dimpled material in back and underneath is delicate as well. There is an opening for the cleat but not the heel, so the back part of my sole wore a hole on the bottom. On the other hand, the fabric contained the hole and it did not allow it to expand. These clearly are for race use only. If you use them when training or commuting, you may as well take your money and set it on fire.

Why I downrated these is because I can't assess whether they accomplished their sole purpose in appreciably reducing drag in light of the cost. Clearly a lot of thought went into these shoe covers, and they look impressive, but I simply don't know if a plain lycra cover (which can be had at half the cost) is much worse. If they're discounted to something close to a plain shoe cover, I think I would get these again. But not at full retail.

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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 23, 2014

1 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Bought this pump to carry with me on my road bike as an upgrade to my previous Wal-mart pump and an alternative to a CO2 cartridge, where if you run out in the middle of nowhere then you're in trouble. While the Crank Brothers pump does come with a frame mount, I like to stick mine in my back jersey pocket. It fits okay. On the plus side, the pump feels very solid and well made.

The problem is when I actually needed it. Got a simple flat on my front tire. I turned the head unit to the appropriate spot and connected the pump to the stem. After pumping like crazy, I could get to maybe 60 psi (and sometimes the tire would inexplicably lose pressure and I would have to start over at 20 psi or worse). I could never be sure that the stem was securely attached to the nozzle. Neither did I notice any difference using either max pressure or max volume settings. After exhaustion from all that pumping sets in, and mounting frustration, I needed to brace the pump against the ground to keep going. Since the nozzle is attached to the pump unit itself, you can only do this very awkwardly. And it's not a good idea for another reason: The valve stem isn't designed to be abused like this and so it snapped right at the rim opening. So not only did the pump not work at all for me, it ruined a tube and forced me to have to call in a rescue from an hour away while standing on a roadside getting hammered by frigid wind. Lesson learned.

If you're on a road bike, get a pump with a flexible nozzle. And make sure it works before taking it out on the road.

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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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