Priest in the Church of England. Trustee SPCK. Father, husband, son. "Small acts of Good change the world."

Category: Reviews, Gear (Page 2 of 2)

Gear, you know what that is.

Wine Snob

There’s nothing better at the end of a hard day than a long cold beer, except perhaps a beautifully rich, deep bodied, glass of Bordeaux. Neither is that practical on a bike. The beer? Well it tends to be warm, and the wine? Frankly it doesn’t get out of France before I’ve finished off my three week supply.

Powdered WineSo to my absolute delight I discovered that you can freeze-dry wine – no seriously – you can buy 200ml of wonderfully rich ‘rouge’ wine direct from Touratech, and in a tiny little silver packet. Perfect.

I was open minded about the wine, I’m not a snob and tend to drink bottles that are less than £5 a pop, but for £3.04 plus p&p even I was a little worried about the quality of the plonk delivered in a mere three weeks.

I prepared the equipment (a jug with 200ml of water, a long stirring thing, and a glass), opened the sachet and dropped in the rather lumpy, congealed powder – not confident at all it was going to dissolve. But to my surprise, the wine dissipated after only gentle encouragement. Five minutes dragged by and I was rewarded with a deep red jug of wine, ready for drinking at the fireside. What could be more perfect?

lumpy wineThe only thing remaining was to actually taste it. This is where the dream of wine on-the-go falls to pieces. Dear Lord… holy cow… and some other non-printable expletives. I’m struggling to describe it without having to resort to blawah, but I can’t come close. It tasted of chemicals, with a hint of toilet cleaner, and and after taste not dissimilar to Sunny Delight.

This is a great idea, and I’m sure if somebody spends some time thinking how it actually tastes rather than trading on the idea of wonderful modern ease and travel, then it may succeed. Until then, drop into your local supermarket, buy the cheapest box of red – remove the outer packing – and be in rouge bliss.

They let me out of the garage

They’ve let me out of the garage – goodness knows why – but Patrick, Stace and I headed down to the London Business Centre over the weekend and met up with some great people who are there to make planning your trip nice and easy – but in the main we just liked to play with the kit and mess around with the camera!

Camping Espresso Review

Some people may say this is a luxury – but frankly there is nothing worse than waking up in a cold tent on a cold morning to be greeted by instant coffee or stale tea. The easy way to solve this problem? A camping espresso machine of course! Perfect for that first thing wake-me-up.

GSI actually make a good range of coffee makers – this one is the GSI Outdoors Mini Espresso kit which you can still buy from places like Amazon or Millets on the high street and is definately the closest you’re going to get to ‘real’ espresso on the road. Whilst some people may argue this is not real espresso it does meet the criteria as set out on wikipedia (so it must be true).

Caffè espresso or simply espresso is a concentrated beverage brewed by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee.

Here’s a quick video of the mini espresso machine working.

Trangia Review

Continuing the series of video reviews, in this episode we look at the Trangia 25-5 – that’s the 2-4 person system that’s non-stick.

The Trangia is a wonderful all round system. I use the 25 (the slightly larger version) because I find the 27 too small for a decent cup of tea for more than one person, and whilst there is an obvious space saving issue, I also find the 27 too fiddly to use with the multi-fuel burner. Talking of which I’d consider the multi-fuel system an absolute must – the meths burner which comes with the system is fine if you have an hour to make a cup of tea – but as we discovered on the Dartmoor training run last year – the last thing you need when you’re cold and tired is to be wondering if your food will ever actually be ready.

The 25 can be had for around £50, the multi-fuel burner is about £80 and then you’re looking at between £5 and £10 for the various accessories, like the multi-disk and extra fuel bottle.

Hein Gericke Winter Gloves

Hein Gericke Winter GlovesThese gloves have now served two winters with distinction. Not only have they kept my mitts warm and dry they’ve also managed to withstand the stupid amount of salt on the roads last year.

The gloves are just £34.99 from any Hein Gericke shop – or their website – which makes them cheap enough to replace each year if needed, but you’ll probably get a lot more than one years use out of them.

They’re too warm to wear in the sping or summer, but perfect for those chilly winter mornings when even your heated hand grips dont cut it.  If you combine these gloves with a good heated hand grip system you will never have cold hands no matter how chilly it is or how long you ride.

The lining is made from a breathable membrane so you don’t sweat in them, they’re also totally waterproof – from the webstie;

  • Winter season/rain
  • 100% water and windproof
  • Breathable Sheltex® membrane
  • Warmth-giving 3M Thinsulate® insulation
  • Reflecting 3M Scotchlite® material


  • Back of the hand: tear resistant textile

Colour: black
Safety Extras:

  • Back of the hand has stretch leather and foam padding
  • Double material on the edge of the hand
  • Scotchlite® reflective material

From a saftey point of view I wouldn’t want to have a high speed crash in them – whilst I think they’d deal with a certain amount of tarmac – I wouldn’t want to test them – they’ve very durable and don’t look like they’ll easily come apart – but there’s no amour, and they are after all made from man-made materials rather than leather.

I can’t reccomend these gloves enough – I’m now putting these back in the kit box as it’s started to get warmer and I’ve moved on to my new Urban gloves.

Garmin Zumo – Initial Review

I promised a short review of the new Garmin Zumo after my visit to the NEC and the 2006 Motorcycle and Scooter show.

Garmin Zumo at NEC

I was really looking forward to getting my hands on this device, not least because I was expecting something special – a year after Tom Tom released the Rider Garmin had the perfect opportunity to pick up on the bad points of the Rider (bad mount) and release something that was sturdy, had even better mapping, and more intuitive interface.

They’ve failed on all but one account. The mount for the Zumo is great – it’s strong, lockable and I can’t see if releasing the Zumo without a fight – and that’s great – something the TomTom Rider falls down on badly. But then you look beyond the build quality and realise that it’s totally un-usable. The ‘glove friendly’ interface is a pain in the bum – it’s very slow to use and in most cases offers no better usability than the Tom Tom.

It has a silly slider system, as you can see above, for inserting addresses etc – it’s slow, difficult to use, and is not sufficiently big to adapt to my winter gloves… TomTom addressed this by ignoring it – they put in a standard on screen keyboard that unless you’re wearing the smallest of summer gloves you have to remove your gloves to use – but made everything else work perfectly with even the thickest winter gloves – in other words – when I’m setting off, before I put my gloves on I put in my destination (or itinerary) then when I pull off, every function is a nice big button towards the centre of the screen.

Which brings me to my next point – interface design – without being unkind… did they get a 3 year old in to do it? It looks like my nephews first attempt at building a GPS unit…

I don’t want to be ‘down’ on this unit before I actually use it – so I’ll stop now –  but my view at the moment is that if you’re looking for a GPS unit for the bike – go for the TomTom Rider or if you really want Garmin go for the Quest2 and get a mount from TouraTech.

Schuberth S1 Helmet – Review

I apparently own the best helmet money can buy, it’s nice to know that my £350 has gone some-way to giving me the quietest, safest lid on the market.

If you enjoy this review – I’ve written a few others you may like.

Schuberth S1 HelmetWhilst this image doesn’t do the lid any favours design wise, I can say that I have a very sexy lid… I paid a little extra and have a stunning paint job. Black with gold dragons, how could I refuse?

Let’s start with this lids biggest selling point… it’s supposed to be the quietest lid on the market, and when you put it on in the store you’re immediately grabbed by how little noise there is, the second thing that surprise me was how ‘lush’ the inside feels next to your skin. It’s the difference from going from a £1.50 disposable razor to the very latest Gillete Fusion, it’s like walking off hard stone into deep pile stately home luxury.

The second thing which surprises you is the internal sun visor, Schuberth where the first to introduce this, and in my opinion still implement it in the best way. A quick flick of the slider on your left hand side and it’s down, again a quick flip and it’s up – easy to do at 5mph and 130mph (so I’m told ;-)). If it was left up to me I would have made the internal visor a few shades darker, but to be frank I’ve not come across sun strong enough to make me want to put extra sun glasses on – not even that low autumn glowing red ball that normally makes me pull over and grab the glasses… and there-in lies it’s benefit – no pulling over when you get surprised by the sun, or if the sun suddenly goes away.

The S1 is also one of the safest lids on the market, it’s what Schubert call S.T.R.O.N.G.S

S. –   RIM
G. — GRP

It also has A.R.O.S

A.R.O.SA.R.O.S. –

Which will stop the helmet being pulled off your head in the case of an accident. A rather clever idea and one that inspires confidence in the though process behind this lid.

Finally, but certainly not least important, this lid is really warm, it was a little too warm over the summer, but now the weather is closing in I’m rather glad of it… it’s like being wrapped in a warm blanked… no cold air sneaks in past the neck huger and I don’t have to put up with running eyes that my old lid used to cause as cold air streamed past my neck and hit my face.

The only failing with this lid has been the outer visor – it’s not very fog resistant – most mornings I have to open it a crack to let in a little bit of air – most of the time I can just open the front vent – but if you’re sat in traffic – forget it – you’ll need to open it. Not the end of the world, and a very small failing for what is, overall, a very comfortable, very warm, very safe helmet. I can’t recommend it enough.

If you enjoy this review – I’ve written a few others you may like.

TomTom Rider Review

I’ve lived with the Rider for a little under six months now. I’ve gone through using it in rain, hail, snow, wind… for short rides, for France, for get out a jail free card when I want to go ‘off route’… and I love it… I’ll say now it has one serious short-coming, but I’ll come to that a little later.

If you enjoy this review, I have some others you may like

Preferences Screen

First of all let’s deal with the basics; how much does it cost? You can pick up the Rider for anything from £250 all the way up to £399… if you pay any more than £270 you’re being done, and in a lot of cases you’ll be able to get the Rider and get it installed for between £270 and £290. If you’re confident with electronics then it’s worth installing it for yourself, but if the thought of hooking into a live (switched) feed scares you then pay for it to be done properly – you’ll be very disappointed if you get half way to France and the unit dies because it’s got no power.

Form factor – the unit is heavy, it’s big even in my large hands and it feels very well made, the screen is large and seems to avoid being covered in fingerprints. It’s confidence inspiring, and will amaze you the first time your drop it and discover it still works. I know several people who have had a nasty bump and seen it go sailing 20 feet up the road, only to discover it still turned on and functioning. It’s fully waterproof and I’ve had it out in rain that soaked me to the skin in 30 seconds, for hours, and still no problem. The small ‘hatch’ at the bottom of the unit that protects the SD card slot and the power input is thick and well placed, it has a nice little rubber grommet that protects the sensitive electronics inside.

The only problem with the design of the unit is the power key, situated at the right of the unit it can, at first, be difficult to differentiate between the rubber ‘hose’ surrounding the unit for protection.. there’s no positive feedback as to if you’ve pressed the button and it’s impossible to turn on or off with gloves.

The unit is incredibly easy to use, simple menus, navigation and clear simple buttons that work well even with gloved hands (except the buttons on the sides like the ‘done’ and ‘-‘ and ‘+’). You can easily put in locations using both post codes and street addresses, you can even navigate to the location using the maps browse function. My favourite is the ability to store favourite locations – I’ve got several – including my work and college locations, as well as friends houses – it’s really handy when you’re in some outer part of London and you have to get to your collage class before 7pm!

One of the best things is the ability to define how you want your route ‘mapped’ – you can set ‘fastest’ or ‘shortest’ or ‘walking’ or several other options that will allow you to customise your journey to the n’th degree… if I’m playing I can avoid motorways, or a specific section of my journey – if a road is closed when I get there I can tell it to avoid the road block and it automatically works out an alternative.. and if you use the traffic service (pointless on a bike) it will automatically re-route you around traffic jams.

The Bluetooth integration is great, I have the unit connected to my Starcom1 Advance unit via Bluetooth so spoken instructions are sent straight to my helmet wirelessly, it also connects to my mobile which is uses for data connections (for weather reports and traffic – as well as map downloads and updates) and will allow me to answer my phone, call someone from my address book or even send / read text messages (all whilst stopped – the unit will stop you doing anything other than basic functions whilst on the move).

I have no real grumbles with the unit bar one…the mount it shipped with has, over time, loosened somewhat and does not ‘grab’ the unit as securely as it once did… it now bounces around and frankly I’m concerned that it may jump out whilst I’m doing 70mph down the M1 – several other people have had this issue too – however – a quick call to TomTom customer services has resulted in a new mount being sent out – and if it’s like the new ones sent to my friends it’s of a much more sturdy design. I guess this is one of the issues of buying early – you’re the tester for the next generation – I’ve been very impressed with how TomTom have responded to customer complaints and problems and they genuinely seem to want to incorporate changes into the product.

Another small concern is that you can’t plan your route on your computer before you leave home, you can build an itinerary on the device or download ones other people have created… but when you tour as much as I do I want to be able to plan my route right down to which b road I’m going to take when – and that may not be the way the device wants me to go… as soon as they have that sorted I’ll be a very very happy man (maybe they could also let you see where you’d been too).

My final point is the availability and ease of install of the maps – many available (not cheap) to download from the TomTom site and they work really well – the France one really helped out this summer… I hope the rest of Europe will prove as easy as I plan Journey To Russia! You’ll need to buy a much larger SD card to accommodate them – but they’re so cheap now who cares.

In summary a great device I could no longer live without – worth it’s weight in gold.

If you enjoy this review, I have some others you may like

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