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Saturday, 10 October 2020

Want to ride the Tour Divide? Here's a kit-list!


For anyone planning on riding the Tour Divide from Banff, Canada to the Mexican Border at Antelope Wells in the USA, kit is going to be pretty high on your list of things to think about. Again and again.

Here, we take a quick look at the the kit that I packed for my 2016 campaign. Even if you are just a casual Dot Watcher, the kit packed for The Divide is always interesting.


Frame: Charge Cooker Ti 29er
Fork: Superstar Carbon Monocoque
Front Wheel: SP-PD8X dynamo hub and Velocity Blunt SS rim
Rear Wheel: DT-Swiss 350 hub and Velocity Blunt SS rim
Tyres: Continental X-King Protection 29 x 2.4″ tyres set up tubeless
QRs: Salsa F&R
Chainset: Raceface Ride with Absolute Black 36T Oval N/W ring
Bottom Bracket: Uberbike Ceramic HTII
Pedals: Lifeline SPD
Chain: KMC X-11SL Goldie Lookin’ Chain
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT M8000 GS
Cassette: Shimano XT M8000 11-42 11spd
Headset: Lifeline Integrated
Stem: Thomson 90mm 4X
Handlebars: Jones Loop bars 710mm
Brakes: Shimano XT M785
Brake Pads: Superstar Sintered
Grips: Ergon GS-1
Bar tape: Deda Carbon in Black
Cables: Shimano XT with Transfil sealed cable kit
Seatpost: Thomson 27.2 410mm
Seat: Charge Knife Ti
Front light: Exposure Revo
Rear Light: Exposure Red-Eye

Handlebar Luggage:

Wildcat Gear Tomcat Jones bar pouch
Sinewave Revolution Dynamo-USB Charger
Duracell 1150mAH buffer battery
iHarbort 5000mAH buffer battery
Various micro/mini USB cables as necessary


Revelate Designs Sweetroll
Alpkit Numo Mattress
Alpkit Cloud Cover Down Quilt
Six Moons Designs Wild Oasis Tarp Tent
Tyvek Floor for above
SOL Emergency Bivi

Revelate Pocket
ACA Tour Divide Maps
Cue Cards
Pinarello Softshell hat
Specialized Wiretap Body Geometry Gel gloves
Gore Bikewear Windstopper Headband
Other stuff TBC probably food/warm gloves/etc.

Alpkit Stem Cells x 2
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Smartphone
Oakley Jawbone Sunglasses
Other stuff TBC, probably beef jerky

Revelate Designs Gastank
TBC, probably sweets

Revelate Designs Jerry Can
Garmin Dakota 20
Alpkit Viper Headtorch
Spare Batteries
Blinky rear light

Sleep Kit:

Revelate Designs Viscacha

Finisterre Merino Baselayer Top
Finisterre Merino Baselayer Bottoms
Finisterre Merino Boxers

Riding Kit:

DHB ASV Merino socks
Planet X Thicky Merino Socks
Sessions Goretex Mitts
Kalas Hangar111-C6 SS Racing Jersey x2
Kalas Hangar111-C6 Racing Gilet
DHB ASV Bib Shorts
Rapha Brevet Bib Shorts
Rapha UV Arm Screens
Castelli UV Leg Screens
Giro Terraduro HV Shoes (Not in Viscacha)
Giro Foray Helmet (Also not in Viscacha)

Wet Weather Kit:

Montane Trailblazer jacket
Gore Bikewear Powertrail shorts
DHB Aeron Rain defence leg warmers
Gore Bikewear Goretex Socks

Cold weather Kit
Polaris windproof fleece gloves
Karrimor Down Jacket
Uniqlo Down Gilet

Revelate Designs Moonlander (!) Frame bag

Side pocket:
Easton Carbon Pole
Alpkit Y Beam pegs

Top pocket:
Wash kit (Soap, Toothbrush & paste, hand gel, baby wipes)
Medical kit (Chamois cream, plasters, Sudocrem, Vitamin I, Antacids, Immodium, Water purification tablets)
Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV Pump
Retractable Cable lock x 2

Bottom Pocket:
Innertubes x 2
Lifeline Dry Chain Lube & Rag
Tool Roll (Topeak Mini 20 Multi-tool, Lezyne patch kit, Tyre levers, zip-ties, gorilla tape)
Superstar Sintered Pads x 4 pairs

Water carrying kit

Free Parable Gorilla Clips x 3 (Under Downtube and one on each fork leg)
Free Parable Gorilla Cage under downtube
Elite Custom Cages x 2 (One on each fork leg)
Wingnut Hyper 2.5 w. 2 litre Camelback bladder
Mountain Warehouse collapsable 500ml bottle x 2
High 5 750ml bottle
Travel Tap 800ml bottle with integrated filter

Aforementioned Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Smartphone 32gb w. 128gb SD Storage
Garmin Edge 810
Garmin ANT HRM
Garmin Dakota 20
Spot Gen 3 GPS Tracking device
Halfords 5 function cycle computer
Energizer Lithium Batteries where appropriate

Clothes on a one-way trip to Banff
Levi’s Engineered Jeans (Yes, really)
Least favourite socks and boxers
Tired old All-Star low tops

Bear Deterrents
Gruffalo Mascot

Monday, 17 August 2020

Review: Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M 700 x 40c Tyres


If you have even the slightest passing interest in motoring then you’ll be familiar with Pirelli tyres. After decades out of the bicycle tyre market they’ve returned with all guns blazing. First with the P-Zero road tyre (a name shared with their high-performance sports car tyre line) and now for the gravel rider with the Cinturato Gravel. Available in two tread patterns, you can choose from the H for hard packed terrain, or the M for mixed (loose or muddy) terrain. The last time I set eyes on a car with Cinturatos was an OG Mini Cooper. Sharing that branding with a pocket-rocket rally car seems a good fit!


If you get bewildered by the litany of different compounds, sidewalls and tubeless options that some tyres come in you’ll find the Pirelli’s a blessed relief. You get to choose between a 35, 40, or 45mm tyre in 700c and a 45 or 50mm in 650b. After that it’s down to whether you want classic tan or black side walls. All models share the same bead to bead nylon puncture resistant belt, kevlar beads and speedgrip tread compound. Pirelli claim a weight of 500g for the Cinturato and the scales of destiny here at Advntr Towers concurred.

The cinturato comes with either ‘classic’ sidewalls (tan) or ‘yellow’ sidewalls (black!)

Ease of fitment

After releasing the Pirelli’s from their packet, and giving them a moment to regain their shape, I fitted them to a set of WTB i23 rims. They went on without fuss and their beads found their place with a satisfying pop. There was a slight leak around the bead but no infuriating weeping through the sidewalls. The front tyre took a ride to fully settle down and stay inflated, while the rear was perfect from the get go. The last set of tyres fitted to these rims behaved in the exact opposite way so nothing to worry about.

Farmer Johns for the 21st century?

On the trail

Typically, we received the Mixed conditions version during a testing period that was almost exclusively bone dry. To their credit the Cinturatos didn’t make us feel like we were dragging unnecessary rubber around. The almost continuous centre line of raised tread keep the Pirelli’s spritely on hardpack and black-top link sections between trails. When the trail crumbled to dust the tread and low pressure volume sees you through to the other side. The sidewall protection is a good balance between sturdy and supple. It’s not hard to balance comfort, pace and stopping rim dingers with tyre pressure.

Pirelli Cinturato M mounted to rim

Power is nothing without control they say…


As you take the Cinturato out of the packaging you can feel that it’s a tough, well made and good quality product. Fitting and tubeless set up were a breeze too. The RRP of £55 is in line with similar premium tyres like the Teravail Cannonball or Schwalbe G-One Bite TLE. Obviously our expectations were high, based on Pirelli’s reputation, and also for a European made product (France in this case) and the Cinturatos didn’t disappoint. While they didn’t get much chance to shine in the wet they proved fast and reliable, and the local thorns and flints also failed to pierce their armour. For a product is touted as an all-rounder Pirelli have achieved this with precious little compromise.

Pirelli tyres are available in the UK through Extra UK.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Review: Jo Burt Signature handlebar tape by Kinesis Bikes


Kinesis Jo Burt signature handlebar tape

I saw two shooting stars last night, I wished on them, but they were only satellites. It’s wrong to wish on space hardware, but in this case my wish was answered. If you’ve read my account of the Atlas Mountain Race you might remember that I suffered a horrendous and very messy nose-bleed. So it was very fortunate that a recent *thud* on the doorstep of ADVNTR Towers was delivery of fresh bar-tape courtesy of Kinesis Bikes! And not just any old tape, but the Jo Burt signature edition! Not only could I consign the old tape to the bin, the Kinesis tape looked a perfect match for my Salsa Cutthroat.

Rely on flower power to fly along the trail!

The man behind the design

Jo Burt has been a constant on the cycling scene for 30-odd years, as an author, illustrator and Transcontinental racer. Having been bitten by the mountain biking bug in the early 90s, it’s Jo’s creation Mint Sauce that I associate with the endless summers and crazy antics of my youth.

The whimsical phrases woven throughout the strip are a large part of their appeal. Mint isn’t featured on the bar tape, but a series of similarly evocative quotes are, all in Jo’s trademark script. I could repeat them here but it would spoil the surprise.

In the box are the two rolls of tape, two finishing strips and a pair of bar-plugs. One with the Kinesis logo, the other with the instantly recognisable flower icon. Kinesis describe the tape as velvet touch  but don’t confuse this with a textured tape that will trap grime, it has a smooth, yet grippy finish.

Kinesis Jo Burt signature handlebar tape fitted to Salsa Cutthroat

Crest that climb with motivation inscribed on your bars.

Fit & finish

As well as a grippy surface, the tape features a Vex gel backing that provides cushioning and grip. So peeling off the backing tape doesn’t reveal an all-or-nothing glue. Whether a perfectionist, or disaster prone, you’ll be pleased how this tape can be repositioned. It has just the right amount of stretch to mould to the drop bars curves without thinning or deforming the graphics.

The pattern helps with spacing your wrap precisely while still being different on every turn. The rolls are generously long and I had no issues wrapping the 44cm wide Salsa Cowchippers with their flared drops. The finishing strips are also exceptionally good. All too often the provided strips start to unfurl before you’ve finished wrapping the other side and you make do with electrical tape. Instead Kinesis have provided strips that stick well and feature a knurled grip pattern.

Classic Jo Burt stem cap

The moment that stem cap has been waiting for has arrived! (not included with the Kinesis bar tape, by the way!)

You like it now but you’ll learn to love it later.

On the bike the tape performs exactly as you’d want it to, grippy, cushioned, easy to clean and hardwearing. Naturally the colours suit the shocking pink Cutthroat we fitted it to, but it’s subtle enough to suit more conservative paint jobs. The asking price of £25 is a fair reflection of the tape’s quality and ease of fitment. But of course, for some of us the appeal of this tape isn’t just how it works physically.

While nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, a quick glance at the bars is all it takes to unearth a wry smile and a burst of 90s energy.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Review: Cirrus Cycles Kinekt 2.1 suspension seatpost


Cirrus Cycles Kinekt

It’s rare that a rider, of any genre of cycling, hasn’t at some point suffered the proverbial pain in the arse. If switching saddles, bib shorts or tyre pressures haven’t helped, perhaps a suspension seat post could do the trick? Suspension seat posts have been doing the rounds for years and with varied success. By the mid-noughties, ever evolving and maturing rear suspension frames and fatter low pressure tyres seemed the final nail in their coffin. So for gravel riding, while rear suspension is still a rarity long days in the saddle are not. Could this lead to a resurgence in bouncy seatposts?

Cirrus Cycles Kinekt: Design & Construction

It’s worth noting that Cirrus Cycles do not refer to the Kinekt as a suspension seatpost. Instead they call it an an isolation system as it is undamped. I think most riders however would consider it a suspension post so I’m sticking with that term! Suspension seatposts generally fall into two basic designs, those that resemble a suspension fork leg or dropper post, and those that use a pivoting parallelogram.

The Kinekt is of the latter style and uses a pair of coil springs and elastomer washers to suspend the rider. There are four different sets of springs to allow for different rider weights between 46 and 145kg . Depending on how deep your pockets are, the Kinekt can be had with either alloy or carbon posts. Ours is the alloy version in 27.2 diameter and 350mm in length and weighs in at just over 500 gms. Depending on the standard post you’re replacing, it’s likely you’re adding 250g in weight to your bike. By its very nature the Kinekt is a layback post and the design sets the saddle back 12mm.

Cirrus Cycles Kinekt seatpost showing the preload adjustment

Preload on the Cirrus Cycles Kinekt is adjusted via the allen bolt and checked against printed guide and marker

Cirrus Cycles Kinekt: Installation & set-up

The Kinekt is available in the most common seat post diameters, and in lengths ranging from 330 to 420mm depending on diameter and post material.  On top of the suspension, sorry, isolation system is a two-bolt seat clamp. This cleverly uses a sprung mechanism to secure the two halves of the clamp. Fitting the saddle is a doddle with no risk of fasteners going astray.

Compared to setting up suspension forks, the Kinekt is an uncomplicated process.  You simply adjust the preload with an allen bolt and a guide on the bottom linkage measures sag. The instructions from Cirrus advise you to set the post 1 cm higher than normal to account for sag. From there on you simply adjust the preload until you are happy with the feel while riding.

Performance in use

I’m at the lower end of the weight range for the springs that came fitted in the Kinekt. I found the range of adjustment to be quite small and struggled to find a sweet spot between bottomed out and locked solid. In the end I backed the bolt off a fraction of a turn until it allowed travel.

While riding, if you deliberately head for a rough patch you can definitely feel the post moving and the edge taken off the jolt. The problem I found was that the saddle constantly bobs while pedalling, and it’s particularly noticeable on smooth surfaces. Referring back to the Kinekt’s instructions doesn’t provide a solution, it basically says “you’ll get used to it eventually”. Oh.

Intrigued by the idea of a full-suspension gravel bike I also fitted a Redshift shock-stop stem in tandem with the Kinekt and headed out for the lumpiest sun-baked ruts. While both units seemed to offer similar levels of comfort the shock-stop does so in a less obvious way, you don’t feel like you’re moving vertically.

Front view of the Cirrus Cycles Kinekt suspension seatpost

There’s no getting away from the ‘unconventional’ looks of the Kinekt post!

Cirrus Cycles Kinekt: Summary

For me the Cirrus Cycles Kinekt was a dud, there are just too many negatives outweighing the occasional boost in comfort. My inability to tame the constant pedal-bob brought back unwelcome memories of mountain bikes from twenty years ago. So while the 35mm travel Kinekt does isolate you from some shocks, anything serious and you’ll rise from the saddle rendering it useless.

The Kinekt is expensive for a product with underwhelming performance and a fairly hefty weight gain. The test period has been blessed with good weather, but in poor conditions I’m not optimistic about the fate of mechanism sitting right in the path of rear wheel spray. Furthermore popping your seatpack on effectively could prove tricky.

If you do suffer discomfort while riding I strongly suggest that you experiment with saddle designs, tubeless tyres and quality bib-shorts instead. Lastly, there’s no getting away from the looks. At the risk of appearing shallow the Kinekt does not look appealing, something could be forgiven if the performance was stellar.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Review: Camelbak Repack LR 4 hydration waistpack


I have a history with Camelbak product that stretches all the way back to the early-90s original. Along the way I’ve worked my way through the Rogue, H.A.W.G and Cloudwalker. In recent years however I’ve been getting less use out of them. A combination of constantly evolving bike bags and bikes with umpteen bottle cages have made the rucksack capacity Camelbak less of an essential. So if your frame bag has robbed you of bottle cage space, the Camelbak Repack LR might just be what you’re looking for…

It’s not a bumbag

The Repack LR is a waistpack that’s part of Camelbak’s LR, or Low Rider range. As the name suggests, they all store their water at waist level. If like me you haven’t bought a new Camelbak in years then you’re in for a surprise! The faff of filling/drying a bladder has been greatly reduced with the new design. The hose can be removed with a quick-link while the bladder remains watertight. There is also a handle integrated into the filler cap mouth. If you’ve ever struggled to fill up at an outside tap and keep the mouthpiece out of the dirt you’ll appreciate this setup.

The Repack’s reservoir can store 1.5 litres (or 50 oz in old money) of water, comfortably matching a pair of bottles then! The bite-valve features an on/off valve and even when on no amount of rough riding lead to any leakage. The hose clips to the pack’s belt using a magnetic tube-trap. To begin with I found this tricky to replace when on the move but it soon becomes second nature. It’s certainly less trouble than trying to replace a bottle into a cage under a frame bag or on a fork leg!

Crux resovoir

The Crux reservoir, holding water with the hose removed!

There are handy pockets on both sides of your hips. On the left a zipped one that was perfect for keys and on the right one with just elastic and an overlapping flap. While I could happily fit a 700c innertube in them there was no way they’d take a modern smartphone. Both sides of the belt have the same ladder-stitched strapping so you can switch the hose-clip to the whichever side you prefer.

Hydration bite valve

Secure hose retention and handy zipped pocket


Another clever feature of the belt is that the main strap passes under  the pockets. Whatever you’ve got stored won’t interfere with or get crushed if you cinch the belt tight. Another upside is that I found the Repack to stay in place with a relatively loose belt. There was no need to cinch the belt so hard you give yourself a beer-belly look-alike! The Repack stays put both when spinning a fast cadence or bashing down sun-baked ruts. There is plenty of padding around the lumber and belt and perforations prevent an excessively sweaty feel.

Camelbak Repack

Elasticated pocket for quick-access for bulkier items, but not your phone…

Further storage

Inside the main compartment there is a central divider to separate the space for the water and other kit. Undoing the zip creates a wide opening so getting the reservoir in is a piece of cake. With the full 1.5 litres on board there’s an additional 2.5l for kit. Room enough for a tool roll and mini-pump without forcing the zips. There is an additional small pocket under the camelback logo. Inside are a series of dividers (So I could do away with the tool-roll!) and a zipped mesh pocket with a key-clip. The exterior zips move horizontally so the pocket opens like a book and velcro flap ensures the zip-pulls can’t catch and pull open inadvertently.

Camelbak Repack

Room for all the essentials in the Camelbak Repack

Camelbak Repack: Summary

I found the Camelbak Repack to work really well for a number of scenarios. For quick rides it holds all the essentials, and on longer rides it increases your overall capacity, conveniently returning what has been lost through fitting a frame bag. Compared to a rucksack there’s no sweaty-back or shoulder ache to contend with. The Repack can also be spun-around to access the pockets without having to remove it, handy for grabbing your camera or a snack in a hurry. The clever design shows Camelbak haven’t been resting on their laurels, if only the side pockets could take my phone! All said, the Repack looks set to join me on a lot more adventures in the future.

Camelbak Repack

The silver-loop is reflective and can take a clip-on light

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Review: Genetic Driser 4-10 drop handlebars


Genetic Driser 4-10


25 years on from riser-bars having their second coming on mountain bikes, Genetic have released their new Driser 4-10 drop-bars. Joining the original Driser 4 road  and Driser 16 gravel bars there is a clear family resemblance. In common with its predecessors, the Driser 4-10 is a drop-riser, that is to say a drop bar with a rise on the top section. At first this seems counter-intuitive but there are situations where this could come in handy. Perhaps to get comfy you need more height than your steerer can accommodate, or perhaps you just want to avoid the huge stack-o-spacers look.

Paired with gel-pads the drisers are a seriously comfy bar

On the bike

The 4-10 part of the Genetic Driser name relates to the 4 degree flare on the drops and the 10mm rise from the centre. The original Driser shared the same flare but came with a 20mm rise. Another way that Drop-bars are aping MTB trends is by getting wider. The Genetic Driser 4-10 is available in five widths from 400 to 480mm in 20mm increments.

The tops of the Drisers are an interesting shape. Normally you’d refer to it as aero, but that’s probably not the biggest concern for someone hoping to raise their bars! I tried our test set with some gel-pads and it made the drisers almost a replacement for flat handlebars. The 4° flare seems tame compared to  a Woodchipper, but adds 16mm width on the drops. So for an Audax, back-roads bash or gravel-lite© it’s enough to help your elbows flex outward. The drisers are made from 6061 alloy and (even without the gel pads) didn’t feel overly harsh or excessively flexible.

Genetic Driser 4-10

Roomy & practical with a hint of flare!

Aside from ride feel the drisers have another couple of handy features. There are channels underneath to help recess the cables and also maintain a comfy shape when gripped. The semi-aero flat-tops leave a bit more room for GPS & light mounts, useful for bars that aim to help you stay out longer! At £44.95 the Drisers compare favourably to rivals and offer a broader width range. If you have some big rides planned, or a bike that’s too compromised for regular use, the drisers could be the bars to open up your options.


  • 6061 Aluminium tubing
  • 40/42/44/46/48 cm Widths
  • 10mm rise
  • 70mm reach
  • 4° Flare
  • 115mm drop
  • 31.8mm stem clamp diameter
  • 23.8mm main tube diameter
  • Laser etched logos on a sand blasted and black anodised finish

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Review: Giro Agilis MIPS helmet


As gravel bikes straddle the middle ground between road & mtb, the associated kit begins to do the same. Road helmets ache to be aero while MTB lids sprout peaks and chin guards. If like me you’re unlikely to be putting out some serious wattage at the DK200, your priorities are different. Decent ventilation, and some additional protection as an off-road tumble is always more likely than on smooth black-top. The Agilis MIPS from Giro is aimed squarely at the all-road market looking for this blend of speed & safety.


The Giro Agilis helmet uses the familiar polystyrene construction you’ll find in most helmets. The first thing that stood out to me was that none of the outer faces of polystyrene are exposed. So scuffs and dents from daily use will be fended off by a tougher polycarbonate shell. This can only help the helmet’s longevity.

Giro Agilis

Why so serious?

Fit & comfort

As we say in all our helmet reviews, any comments on fit have the caveat that all human heads are different shapes. One thing that everyone can probably agree on is that good ventilation is a must. Here the Giro Agilis does well, and in the pics below you can easily see both my head, and some daylight through the vents. These combined with the generous foam pads meant that when working up a sweat it doesn’t run into your eyes. Another aspect of fit that thankfully has been important of late is compatibility with sunglasses! My Oakley Monsterdogs have the chunkiest frames of all my sunnies and play nicely with the Agilis. Neither push each other lopsided when worn together!

Giro Agilis

Good ventilation and clearance for big sunnies!


Looking inside the Giro Agilis you can see the Roc Loc 5.5 MIPS cradle. For those of you unfamiliar with MIPS it’s a system that aims to reduce rotational brain injuries. Once the main body of the helmet has absorbed the initial impact the MIPS liner allows your head to rotate within the helmet. This is particularly important when your head hits something at an angle. Let’s face it, you’re unlikely to hit anything perfectly on the level. Of course I can’t verify the effectiveness of MIPS, what I can do is say that the system doesn’t make the helmet uncomfortable or more difficult to adjust. In fact I was hugely impressed by the level of comfort offered. The straps are easy to adjust and stay put while the Roc Loc adjuster has enough fine-tuning to allow a custom fit. Crucially I could adjust the Agilis so that it stayed in place without feeling like my skull was being compressed!

MIPS view of Giro Agilis

Excellent adjustment, and comfort without bulk.


The Agilis was a hit from the get go. It’s comfortable, light, and very easy to adjust. The Agilis mixes the best of road & MTB helmets without compromise. The best helmet is perhaps the one you don’t notice and you’re happy wearing. Retailing at £89.99 I feel the Agilis represents good value for money, considering the excellent fit, finish and MIPS cradle. If you like the design of the Agilis MIPS but aren’t convinced by the MIPS system then a standard Agilis is also available. It retails for £69.99 and comes in the same seven colourway options. Personally, spreading that additional £20 across the many hours I’ll wear this helmet for makes the extra expense a no-brainer. Ahem.

It’s also worth mentioning that currently Giro are supporting NHS & key workers by offering a 30% discount off their range of products. You can read more about it HERE.

Rear view of the helmet

The Agilis extends lower than your average road lid