Product Reviews

Make sure to check back here often for one riders opinion on products, apparel, supplements or anything else he can give an opinion on.

Energy Bars and Gels

So in preparation for my Century Ride this past weekend, I made my way down to my Favorite LBS to get some supplies. I originally went down to get a new Cassette, to get me some gears that would be more appropriate for hills and climbs. But while I was down there I decided to try out some of the Energy Gels and bars, realizing I would be on the bike for a longer period of time than I have been so far to date, since getting back on the bike. I knew I was going to need to carry a bit of food and I was already planning on taking my "Old Standby" Nature Valley Oats and Honey, Granola Bars, but I knew if I was going to be on the bike for 6 or 7 hours, and if I was going to be riding 40 miles further than I have to date, that I would need more than that.

In preparation for my longest outing to date, I decided it would be a good time
to try out a few various gels etc. to supplement my "Old Standby" Granola bars
So while I was at the shop, getting what I needed, I decided to try the GU Energy Gels and the Cliff Bar Shot blocks. I believe the GU Gels were about a buck a piece and the Shot blocks were around $2.00 (that's an estimation because I didn't really look at the price, I'll update when I talk to Gary and make sure of the price)

I already had the Granola Bars. I nearly always have a box of them in the pantry, because I almost always have one in my pocket when I'm riding just in case I need a quick bite to eat. I also already had a couple Clif Bars ready to go... the Carrot Cake Clif bar is my personal choice of the "Original line" of Clif Bars, there are a few others, like the Apricot flavor and the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut, that I like, but I tend to stay away from anything that has chocolate in it. The chocolate flavor just makes me WAY to thirsty. I also already had a Gatorade powder pack on hand. I tried one of these on my 4th of July ride and I have to admit, I was impressed. Just pour one of these in your water bottle, shake it up, and BAM, it tastes just like it's supposed to taste. It dissolves well too, where it doesn't leave a cake of powder at the bottom of your bottle, which is definitely a bonus when you get home and you're trying to clean it out.

But on to the new stuff... I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the Gu Energy Gels AND the Clif Shot Blocks. Normally I judge an energy bar etc on the fact that at best "It wasn't that bad" but the Gu Gel and Shot blocks were actually way past "not too bad" they were actually good.

I tried the Gu Energy Gel at about 40 miles. It was easy to open with one hand. Just tear the top tab off with your teeth and it's ready to go. I really didn't know what to expect about taste and texture. The one I tried was the Mandarin Orange. It was easy to eat, just one squeeze and it's all in your mouth. the taste was good, it actually tasted pretty much as described. And the texture was pretty much like... I would probably describe it as the same texture as Honey. The effects must have been pretty immediate because I had the Gu Gel as I started to feel a bit hungry, and after I took it, I felt just fine with no more hunger to speak of. I didn't need anything else to eat for another 30 miles, because it wasn't until about mile 70, I stopped for a few minutes at the Fisherman's Access (just North of my second pass by Lake and Los Cerritos) at Turlock Lake and ate my Natures Valley Oats and Honey bar.

At about mile 85, I opened the Clif Shot Blocks. Again, it was easy to open, just bite the end and they are ready to eat. There are six of them in the package, and between mile 85 and home I ate 4 of the 6 that were in the package. These things are not only good... I'd have to go as far as to say they are good to the point of being Dangerous good... or at least really expensive good. They were better than a lot of candy I've had. I had the Tropical Punch flavor and they were awesome. Their texture was kind of a cross between gum drops and Gummy bears. I can see where it would be equally easy to just eat one or to just let it dissolve in your mouth (depending on preference). They did make me a bit more thirsty than the Gu Gel did. But at the point in the ride I was eating them all it did was prompt me to drink more, like I should have been anyways. I ate them just at the point where I was starting to get hungry and they did just what I could have hoped they would do, and gave me a bit more energy to continue my ride just fine.

Bottom line is... I did a ride that was 40 miles longer than the one I completely bonkedGu Gel, 4 Shot Blocks, and ONE Natures Valley Granola bar (out of the picture, above, that's all I used) I got home feeling great having had a really good ride... take that for what you will.

Coppertone Sport

Ok... So I realize Sunblock is not the most exciting thing to write about. But, my recent experiences with Coppertone Sport 30 SPF Ultra Sweatproof (Clear Continuous Spray) is something that I'm pretty excited about. This stuff is, hands down, the best sunblock I've ever used. Up until recently, the drawbacks, and hassles, of sunblock had always caused me not to use any. Between having to rub it in, and having greasy hands after application, and having it drip in my eyes... I always hated using any type of sunblock. But after recently hearing about a few friends of mine having skin cancer scares (some even having to have surgery) I decided I'd better start trying to find a sun block that would work for me. And I found it. This stuff just sprays on and you can forget it. No rubbing it in. No greasy hands, and BEST OF ALL... I have not had it roll in to my eyes at all. I still get the sun tan from being out in the sun... a cyclist has to be able to work on those awesome tan lines after all... but I have not even come close to burning one time since using this product.

Specialized BG Inserts

Since returning to the bike, I noticed I was having problems with my feet that I didn't have back when I used to race. Right about at 45 miles I was getting what is often described as "Hot Foot" where the balls of my feet were starting to go numb, and it was often getting so bad my middle toe would start to feel like it was being cut off by the time I would reach 50+ miles.

I knew this could be attributed, in part, to being new back on the bike. I was aware there would be different things that I would have to get my body accustomed to other than just the obvious... sitting on the saddle. But this problem with my feet seemed like it was due to something more than that and need to be corrected.

I knew my shoes where probably not the problem. I knew they were good (SIDI Genius 5.5) And as a rider, I have never worn anything other than SIDI shoes. Even with the years that went by, since I last rode, I knew my feet hadn't grown and I was using the same size I always had, so I was fairly confident the fit was good. So I moved my attention to the cleats. I knew that riders often set their cleats back towards the middle of the foot to alleviate these types of discomforts so I checked that as well.

After taking a look at my shoes and cleats (with no significant improvements) I decided to turn my attention to my inserts. SIDI makes great shoes, but they have never been known for having good inserts in them. So, I decided to do some research on some of the different insole options there are out there. I really got the BG Inserts by default. I liked the fact that Esole inserts are customizable and went to one of the LBS in the area and purchased the Esole kit they said I needed. But the guy at that LBS (that is also supposed to be their bike fitter) is a moron and sold me a kit that can only be used with Bontrager shoes, as it only contained the arch wedges and metatarsal pads and no actual insoles to attach them to. This was pretty disappointing, and I returned them the next day and, after they actually did some research they found that the kit (that actually included insoles) was going to have to be ordered AND was going to cost another $30 on top of the $50 I had already spent. I told them no thanks and took my $50 down the road to their sister store to look at BG Insoles.

The reason I didn't want to go with the BG Insoles from the start is they come in three different arch heights, and the shop I was purchasing them from didn't have any of the BG equipment to even tell me which arch height I actually need. (Not really sure how that makes any sense what so ever). So I went in and was asked if I need help. I said I needed some insoles and was promptly taken to the shoe section of the store. I started asking questions and it became very apparent the guy that was "helping" me was just another idiot like the guy at the last shop. I asked how I should decide on the arch height and he said "Well you can see through the side of the package, you can put it up next to your foot and your eye should be able to tell you which one you need." (Seriously???) I then said I notice the insoles come in different sizes, how should I figure out which size to buy because I have SIDI shoes and those are Specialized sizes which I know for a fact are not the same. He said I should just guess. (OK... WTH?) I told him "So I'm just supposed to guess about these insoles that are supposed to help my feet IF they fit properly, and just give you $50?" I then told him what we were going to do, is I'm going to go get my shoes out of the truck and we're going to open the ones I think will fit and see if they fit in my shoe. I also wanted to compare them side by side with the original inserts because if they were too thick they would essentially make my shoes too small. He didn't like that idea, but at that point I really didn't give a shit. They looked to be ok, I found the size that fit best (with minimal trimming) and found the ones I wanted.

I ended up getting the lowest arch (Red) insloes. And the first day I rode with them, I rode 60 miles with absolutely no problems. My feet had some SLIGHT irritation at the end but I'm sure that can be contributed to being new back on the bike. I absolutely think the "Metatarsal button" on the inserts works outstanding for the "Hot Foot" and would recommend these insoles absolutely... I just wish now that I had gotten the Blue (medium) arch support because I think it would fit my arch better (but not much). It's funny because that was EXACTLY what I thought would happen and EXACTLY why I didn't go with them from the beginning.

The moral of the story is... BG Fit Insoles are great overall... the bikes shops in Modesto, on the other hand, are NOT great overall.