Swrve Stationary Tool Roll Review

Swrve Stationary Tool RollSwrve’s Stationary Tool Roll is well organized and holds everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Long Story Short: A clever and convenient alternative to carrying your on-the-bike essentials in a top notch, made-in-the-USA package.

Swrve Stationary Tool Roll 2A 700×32 tube, two CO2 cartridges + nozzle, a tire lever, patch kit, and a Crank Brothers multi-tool are tucked away inside.

Long Story Long: Picked this up before doing the Rock Cobbler as a way of carrying less (but more) stuff. I’ve been using Swrve’s Tool Bag for a couple years but faced with a 100 or so miles of potential doom, I wanted to carry some extra supplies but not actually carry them so I split the load between the Tool Bag and the Tool Roll.

The Tool Roll carried all the flat supplies and fortunately it didn’t get called into action until after crossing the finish line. I flatted not once but twice on three mile slog back to the start. Good times.

Compared to a traditional saddle bag, there are a couple upsides with the Tool Roll. Its compressed nature means nothing will rattle around on the inside and the lack of a seat post anchor strap means there’s no chance of the inner thigh region of your expensive Lycra shorts getting roughed up. The lone traditional toe strap does a surprisingly great job of keeping the Tool Roll in place. Pull it nice and tight and you’re all set.

Swrve Stationary Tool Roll 4You can’t see it because of the sweet camouflage but there is a Swrve Stationary Tool Roll in this photo. Trust me.

I didn’t expect that it would get much use following the Cobbler but I soon found myself using it on the reg. Its compact size and high easy on/easy off factor makes it snap to switch between bikes. With my CX and commuter using the same size tubes, the Tool Roll could do double duty while my Tool Bag could remain road specific specific. Gone are the days of scurrying around for the right size tube when I want to go for a ride. Convenience is an amazing thing.

Here’s The Breakdown: All the Swrve quality you know and love is present in the Tool Roll. At $40, it’s a little on the spendy side but it’s much more economical than similar style wraps that don’t look nearly as robust.

The Tool Roll features three slots plus a zippered pocket for carrying the important stuff you really don’t want to lose such as ID, credit cards, or keys. A sewn-on nylon ribbon adds a layer of tidiness and helps keep the total package as compact as possible.

I have a Jandd Tire Bag (great for holding a mini pump) that’s almost old enough to drink and is still going strong (though it looks like it was ready to be retired at least 5 years ago). With Swrve’s Tool Roll constructed from the same 500-denier Cordura and fortified with solid stitching, a beefy zipper that could survive the apocalypse, and the only “moving part” being readily available should the need for replacement ever arise, I fully expect the Toll Roll to be alive and kicking in the year 2525.

Oh crap.

I just realized that’s only ten years from now. That’s no longer the distant future is it? Where the hell is the time going and where are our damn jet packs?

Swrve Stationary Tool Roll 3Stationary is Swrve’s new line of on and off the bike accessories.

Lake MX331 Cyclocross Shoe Review

LAKE MX331The Lake MX331 during happier times. These shoes refused to clog with mud.

Long Story Short: The Lake MX331 had the potential to be a category defining shoe if not for a fatal design flaw.

Long Story Long: Really? That sentence above didn’t scare you away? If you want the whole story, here you go…

I originally wasn’t going to review these turds but like all mediocre cyclocross racers, I chose to spend a lovely June Saturday indoors scouting purchases for the upcoming season. When I saw Competitive Cyclist had them on ultra-mega-too-good-to-be-true closeout and The Clymb has them at a if-you-have-little-feet-and-insist-on-black-you-will-pay-a-premium price, I thought it’d be best to warn the others.

I bought a pair of Lake MX331 shoes on closeout before last ‘cross season. If you’re too lazy to do the math, that means these shoes are going on three years old.

When the Brown Santa dropped them off, I couldn’t have been more pleased. These shoes were going to be bar far my most brilliant purchase ever.

Then I read the instruction manual.

LAKE MX331 WARRANTY INFOAs a general warning, any product manual that has more words related to dire warnings and advice on what to do if (and when) it falls apart than actual instructions should be avoided at all costs.

I was too enamored by the new shiny kicks to heed my own advice and set to work to get them thermo-custom-molded to my feet.

Having fit at least 100 pairs of Shimano’s heat moldable shoes during the tail end of my illustrious bike shop career, I can say on good authority that the Lake method of tossing them in your own oven is more than a little hoopty.

I followed the instructions to the letter down to using an in-oven thermometer and by the time things cooled down, my feet were whelmed with a sense of ‘meh.’ I guess they sorta changed the fit but it was hard to tell.

Not to worry though, surely the Boa Closure System would take care of the fit.

It did and all was well.

Except when my feet were constricted to the point of falling asleep which was pretty much anytime I wore the shoes.

Because the shoes have only one Boa system placed near the ankle, you have to ratchet the crap out of it to secure the fit of the whole shoe. In their limited lifetime, I re-molded them three times and am unconvinced that Lake’s moldable heel cup keeps its shape. It seemed to return to normal within a couple weeks of riding.

Even with these two rather significant quirks, the MX331 was an awesome shoe once you were actually cyclocrossing. The lack of lugs at the front of the sole gave a wide open path to the cleat. In over 20 years of using clipless pedals, these were by far the easiest shoes to clip into (and no, my skills and coordination didn’t suddenly improve in my second decade) and were seemingly impervious to mud. The kangaroo leather was tough as f and the Boa system held up to anything.

In fact, the Boa system was so durable it kept on working like nothing happened even after it ripped itself clean out of the shoe.

Lake MX331 BrokenAs you can see, the Boa system was far too strong for the shoe.

I wasn’t even doing anything cool either. Took a quick spin up Nichols Canyon on the eve of Santa Cross and came home with a busted shoe. There would be no fixing it either. A three-month-old pair of shoes that had seen 10 cyclocross races and maybe 30 hours of ride time had bitten the dust. What a waste.

Not to worry.

Surely they could be warrantied, right?

Yeah, right.

Knowing full well that the week before the holidays is the worst time in the world to expect anything done, let alone in the bike industry, I wrote a note to the Lake warranty department (a teammate had their email handy from a previous encounter) and explained what happened. Since ‘cross season was over, I was in no rush to get a replacement pair. Anytime before February’s Rock Cobbler would be great.

Surely Lake would respond, right?

Yeah, right.

After a month with no reply, I wrote to Lake’s sales manager (a friend who’s a pro hooked me up with his email) with the lofty request of seeing if anyone at Lake could address my warranty claim directly. I had filled out the warranty paperwork with Competitive Cyclist (where I had purchased the shoes) and was still waiting to hear back.

39 days later, I finally did. Of course Lake was out of stock and I would have to wait a few months for the redesigned replacement model.

Yeah right.

Instead, I bought at replacement pair of shoes at a local bike shop and used my Competitive Cyclist “credit” (Refund? Refund?) to get a new pair of tubluars for next cyclocross season which is something I need like a hole in the head.

Want A Second Opinion? Check out Road Bike Review here and Mountain Flyer Magazine here.

 

Swrve Durable Cotton Review

swrve durable cotton pants and shorts
Swrve’s Durable Cotton pants on the left, shorts on the right. The surprisingly water-resistant pants show the aftermath of a sprinkler attack. The shorts are a better representation of what dark grey looks like in Swrve’s color palette.

Long Story Short: Much like Swrve’s Cordura Jeans being a game changer in the realm of cycling denim, Durable Cotton does the same for non-denim. This fabric is amazing and virtually indestructible.

Long Story Long: At the start of this past summer, I picked up a pair of Durable Cotton pants and shorts. The pants had the practical purpose of being a slightly lighter weight alternative to jeans when things heated up.

The shorts were more of an impulse purchase. Already owning a couple pairs of Swrve’s _blk Lightweight Shorts, I was a little skeptical that the Durable Cotton version would amount to much more than high performance backyard BBQ shorts.

It took all of one ride to realize just how far off base that assumption was.

The maiden voyage for the shorts was a 20 mile round trip pedal across town to Dodger Stadium. I clipped the tags off and was out the door-  shakedown ride around the block be damned.

The most immediate impression they made was the amount of stretch they had. While the Lightweight Shorts have plenty of stretch, the Durable Cottons are wicked stretchy. We’re talking near Spandex levels of elasticity. As silly as it sounds, the material has such unique properties that sometimes I have to fight the urge to run around and do roundhouse kicks just to see if I can find its limits.

After that first ride, the shorts became my go-to item of the summer. On those rare occasions they weren’t folded neatly in the dresser, they could hang out on the floor for days at a time between wearings and be good to go with a quick shake thanks to being nearly impossible to wrinkle.

The pants performed just like the shorts except in a longer package. The fit is identical to Swrve’s regular fit jeans so there were no surprises there. The textured, yet soft nature of the Durable Cotton gives the pants a Dickies like feel without being industrial.

Back in the day, Dickies used to be the pants for messengers in downtown LA thanks to their low cost to durability ratio. While $100 for a single pair of pants isn’t cheap, the only way I can imagine Durable Cotton pants not outlasting several pairs of their ordinary counterpart is if they were doused in gasoline and set on fire. And if that happened, you’d have bigger problems to worry about.

One bonus feature to the pants is how comfortable they are for travel off the bike. Wore them on a few long road trips and flights this summer and stayed as snug as a bug in a rug. The stretchiness is a huge boon when contorting yourself into a sleep compatible position while stuck for hours in a tiny seat.

Here’s the Breakdown: All the details that have become Swrve trademarks are present and accounted for. Both the shorts and pants have a seamless crotch, heavy duty stitching throughout, reflective belt loops, and dual pen pockets- one of the dorkiest, yet ridiculously useful features you’ll ever encounter.

With regard to the pants, the pocket configuration is pretty standard. Two up front and two in back. The left rear pocket is zippered. The right rear pocket is open and a little larger and should comfortably fit an iPhone 6+ if that’s your jam. Unlike the jeans, there is no reflective strip inside the leg. Swrve’s trademark articulated knee gussets are present and accounted for.

The pocket configuration of the shorts is slightly different. Two standard pockets are up front and in the back is a Velcro pocket on the left and on the right is a larger, offset open pocket (think mini u-lock sized) with an integrated zippered wallet sized pocket on top. Gotta love how Swrve makes it hard for you to lose your important stuff. For obvious reasons, the shorts lack knee gussets.

After five months in heavy rotation and dozens of washings later, zero signs of wear can be found on either piece. The color hasn’t faded, seams haven’t frayed and the Durable Cotton hasn’t lost its shape. I wouldn’t be surprised if both make it to the next decade.

Want a Second Opinion? Cycleboredom is on the case.

Swrve Cordura Jeans Review

SWRVE CORDURA JEANS
Regular Trim Fit on the left. Skinny fit on the right

Long Story Short: A Vulcan mind meld of Action Pants and Toughskins. Swrve’s Cordura jeans are the best jeans a cyclist or anyone whose daily business is on the action-packed side can own.

Long Story Long: When it comes to new cycling gear, I can’t upgrade soon enough. When it comes to everyday clothes, I’d be wearing a burlap sack if it wasn’t for my dear wife making sure I’m properly clothed.

And that’s the conundrum with urban cycling apparel.

It all rides that fine line between performance and practical. I guess that’s probably the general idea but for non-clotheshorses that can mean it might take a while to jump on the fashion bandwagon.

In my case that was two years after Swrve released their innovative Cordua jeans. Every (as in all four) pair of jeans I owned had finally bit enough dust to require some new ones. So instead of rolling west towards the Grove, I pedaled east towards VeloLove.

The Regular Trim Fit jeans were love at first sight. My usual size was right on the money and the difference when it came to on-the-bike performance was so immediately apparent I wanted to punch myself in the junk for not upgrading sooner. The most noticeable features were the Spandex infusion (goodbye eternal struggle of trying to pedal in denim) and the seamless crotch (goodbye perpetual taint noogie).

Within a week I was at VeloLove for pairs two and three. Picked up another Trim Fit and a pair of the Skinny Fit for those days when I’m feeling extra sassy.

Here’s the Breakdown: The Regular Trim Fit jeans are just that. Regular and trim fit. There’s plenty of space to move around without being too baggy. I have yet to snag them in a chain ring and if that did happen, I’d be more worried about the chain ring busting a toof. The pockets are smartly laid out and even the quirky pen pocket has grown on me to become a useful feature. On the backside there’s an extra, offset pocket perfectly sized for an iPhone. However, if you’re a klutz and have the protective case to prove it, the mobile pocket my be too tight of a squeeze. If that’s the case, use it to carry a Bit-O-Honey instead.

The Skinny Fit jeans are definitely on the skinny side but not so skinny that a generous application of Crisco is required to slip into them. Another way to describe them would be very tailored. They have the exact same pocket configuration Regular Fit though it’s best to travel light as stuffed pockets will leave you looking a bit lumpy.

If you’ve got quads and glutes of steel, be prepared for your milkshake to bring everyone to the yard. Due to the tighter fit, the articulated knees are much more noticeable on the Skinny Fit jeans and definitely allow for a full and frictionless range of motion.

Like the rest of Swrve’s products, quality is top shelf. After several months of use and dozens of washes, they still look like new all the way down to the built-in reflective strip hidden away on the inside. Every pair of jeans I’ve ever owned has been shredded at the hem due to my strange habit of walking/shuffling barefoot around the house and garage. Meanwhile, these jeans refuse to budge. The Cordura denim is definitely built for the long haul.

Want a Second Opinion? Check out Cycleboredom. They have glamour shots too.

Ergon SRX3 Cyclocross Saddle Review

ERGON SRX3 SADDLE

Long Story Short: A purpose built cyclocross racing saddle sounds like a gimmick- until you try it.

Long Story Long: After reading my review of Ergon’s CF-3 seatpost, my astute reader noticed their yet-to-be-released SRX3 was perched atop that post and asked what I thought of it.

Before we get to that, here’s some context. When I started racing, er, participating, in cyclocross, the first two seasons I used an old WTB Shadow V (one of my all-time favorite MTB saddles) I had laying around. For CX, the nose could be a little harsh and the internal cut-out made for a lot of flex when remounting. By the time it was re-retired, it was droopy enough to start looking like a Ken doll size hammock.

Next up was Ritchey’s Streem saddle. It lasted about a week before going back on my road bike. The board stiff shell meant every re-mount was a chance to bludgeon your gooch.

Then, on the recommendation of a friend who could actually be classified as a racerFizik’s Arione got the nod. His reasoning for it being the best saddle for cyclocross stemmed from its length. As long as you could get in the same area code when re-mounting, you were never going to miss. With that sound bit of logic, the Arione enjoyed an undisputed run of three perpetually podium adjacent seasons under my tubby butt.

When I got the SRX3, I was actually sad to chuck my Arione into the dark corner of the garage. By comparison, the SRX3 is much shorter, particularly at the nose, which had me a little skeptical. This turned out to be a non-issue and revealed itself to be a positive feature over the course of this past SoCalCross season.

The short nose meant no more chamois snagging when jumping back on the bike. (I know that’s probably not a very common occurrence, but I’m a klutz and am good for pulling that sweet power move at least a couple times a year.) Along with being shorter, the nose is flatter and wider which makes being on the rivet suck a little less. The rest of the saddle stays as flat as possible with a slight kicktail at the back to help keep you planted.

Ergon says its design allows for “fast and unhindered position changes” aka “cyclocross maneuvers.” To that end, they knocked the SRX3 out of the park. The design is so seamless that it’s nearly invisible- especially while racing. There was never a time when coming up with post-race excuses that I even considered pointing a boney, Cheeto dust covered finger of blame at the SRX3.

Seriously, Ergon invented a whole new category with this saddle.

Here’s the Breakdown: The SRX3 measures approximately 130mm wide (measured across the widest point of the black area) by 180mm long (tail to tip). This puts it right in-between Ergon’s small and medium XC saddles. What’s the German word for slightly bigger than small? If you’re someone who’d normally run size large, the SRX3 would probably be comfortable enough for 45 minutes to an hour.

ERGON SRX3 SADDLE DIMENSIONS

While thin, the padding does a great job of being supportive. The SRX3 reminds me of the Selle Italia SLR in terms of size and thickness except for the fact that its padding is up for the job. By contrast, a hard look could bottom out the SLR.

That being said, the SRX3 definitely reminds you of its intended use on longer rides. By the three hour mark that invisibility starts to wear off and its minimal padding becomes noticeable. While this might not be an issue for other riders, it is something to consider. If your CX bike is also your adventure bike, something a little more robust might be in order.

Then again, it all comes down to picking the right tool for the right job.

Want more info? Check out CX Magazine’s take.

Ergon CF3 Carbon Seatpost Review

Ergon CF-3

Long Story Short: German engineering turns bumps into chumps with near set-it-and-forget-it simplicity.

Long Story Long: Before the start of this past cyclocross season, I was offered the chance to test out Ergon‘s new CF3 Seatpost that was about to hit the market after a solid year of suspense. While there was no doubt it was an intriguing item, I was mildly worried that the offer was really more of a dare. My knack for breaking stuff rivals this kid’s, I’m a party ball and half a tube of Pringles away of cresting the posted 220lb weight limit, and I was specifically asked to go race cross with it. At the time, Ergon made it quite clear that the CF3 was for road use only.

After 18 races and four months under my tubby butt (along with rigorous, quantifiable testing back home in Germany) the Ergon CF3 has been deemed fit for cross use.

That’s all fine and dandy, but you’re here because you want to know how it works, right?

Quite simply, the CF3 performs exactly as billed while being virtually invisible. Think of it as a bump silencing ninja. Once the initial “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” amazement wears off, you don’t realize how well it works until you go back to a standard rigid seatpost and suddenly feel every single bump and imperfection in the surface underneath you.

The fact that it works so effortlessly well is a game changer. Not only is your ride instantly more comfortable (goodbye lower back pain), the suspension action helps keep you planted on the saddle allowing you to pedal through the rough stuff when you’d otherwise be forced to stand.

The amount of flex the post has is a bit of a mystery. While Ergon declines to assign a number, they reinforce basic rules of physics by stating the post will flex more under a heavier rider or more stress. The only time its “travel” has been noticeable is when you pull a sweet move like auguring your rear wheel into a gopher hole at full speed while seated or muffing your remount and doing a Hulk Hogan leg drop on the tail end of the saddle with all your weight.

Even then, the amount of movement you feel is slight as the pivoting head keeps the saddle in an even plane. This is a total 180 from the pogo stick action of the suspension seatposts from the days of yore.

Lest you think it doesn’t really work unless you can feel it flexing, not to worry. There will be at least one person in your riding group who will curiously point out that your seatpost is moving.

Here’s the Breakdown:
 Set up is very easy but I can’t stress enough the importance of taking your time and following the instructions. (That means using a torque wrench.) The flip head gives you plenty of fore/aft range and is a snap to install a saddle. Testing the setback version of the CF3, I found the forward position ideal. With tilt adjustment requiring full seatpost removal, it would be best to get things dialed-in in a controlled environment.

I made the impatient mistake of venturing off for a shakedown ride immediately after installing the post, stopping a few times along the way to dial in the the saddle angle. The CF3 is really two individual pieces connected by the by the head up top and a 3mm-ish bolt at the bottom. Tilt adjustment is accomplished by loosening the bolt and sliding the two halves into your desired position. Being the thoughtful Germans they are, Ergon includes a measurement scale to gauge how much you’ve moved things. There’s second scale along the side of the post to measure seat height.

Even with the help of the scale, tilt adjustment is a bit of trial and error which can be chalked up to simply using a new product for the first time. Over the course of pulling out the post a few times, I managed to wipe off most of the carbon paste which resulted in glacial slippage. The post dropped a good two inches over the course of a 15 mile ride home but not at a rate that was noticeable as it was happening.

And that little nugget of mechanical shame leads to what I feel is the most important part to know about the set up.

Because the CF3 seatpost isn’t perfectly round, (look close and you’ll see a little gap where the two halves meet) carbon paste needs to your best friend to avoid slippage. Those little molecules or whatever is in carbon paste make all the difference. Once I re-installed the post with a fresh coat and seat height and position locked in, I haven’t touched it since. No squeaks, creaks, or slipping to be had.

Want a Second Opinion? Check out this long-term review from Gravel Grinder News.

Swrve Deck Jacket Review

After 5 or 6 years of reliable service, my first generation Swrve Milwaukee Hoodie presented me with a bit of a quandary.

It still looked like new and had long ago proven itself to be the perfect jacket for surviving a Los Angeles winter. Thanks to a Vulcan mind meld with a Thermos, it had the magical ability to keep you warm and dry no matter how cold or wet and when the mercury pulled a Sammy Hagar and blew past 55, you wouldn’t swelter.

The problem was my lovely wife. She was getting tired of looking at it and in her quest to mold me into an upstanding adult, she put in a request (order) that I go out and get a hood-free “grown up” jacket. Apparently hoods have been the force field keeping me from a 401K.

Lucky for me, swrve just introduced their new Deck Jacket that appeared to offer all the performance of the classic Milwaukee in a refined, hood-free package. We’re talking a collar and buttons level of polish.

So, I took a trip over to VeloLove to pick out a new torso companion for the next half decade or so.

The Deck Jacket was love at first sight. It felt so grown up. And by that what I mean is while my ol’ Milwaukee was functionally sound, that’s exactly what it was- functional.

The Deck Jacket takes that function and adds some serious flair- hidden wrist gaiters to keep the wind from trickling up your sleeve, a giant mesh backed rear cargo pocket (accessible from either love handle), a mesh interior pocket for your Walkman, and dual ended pit zips (with reflective tips) for venting. Of course these are features Swrve probably added long ago but it’s hard to keep up when their stuff doesn’t wear out.

The fit and cut is perfect. The sleeves are the right length on and off the bike and the drop down tail keeps your caboose nice and covered.

With a recent merciless cold snap that had LA in its frigid clutches for nearly a week, the most pleasant surprise of swrve’s Deck Jacket is its collar. Pull over the flap, (I’m sure it has a technical term) button it in place, and boom. You have a built-in scarf. This little feature is so cleaver and handy- especially when you’re cranking right into a spirit crushing 10mph head wind.

Temperature-wise I put this bad boy through its paces all the way down to the upper 30’s with a just a long sleeve t-shirt underneath and stayed perfectly cozy. The pit zips are easy to open on the fly to the let the breeze in should you start to get a little too warm.

Haven’t had the chance to try it out in the rain but I’ve spilled enough liquids on it to be confident in its water resistance should LA’s three day monsoon season ever strike.Swrve Deck Jacket
And most importantly, it qualified as a grown up jacket.