Under Test: Specialized Phenom Pro Saddle

Spec_Phenom

Specialized’s Phenom Pro saddle packs a plethora of features into a svelte 205g package. The Body Geometry design keeps blood flowing to sensitive arteries, while a carbon-reinforced shell adapts to your body for a custom fit. Plus, it’s red, and everyone knows that red parts make you go faster.

Stay tuned…

First Impressions: Skratch Labs Matcha + Lemons Exercise Hydration Mix

If you’re a regular reader of GRAVELBIKE, you know that I’m a big fan of Skratch Labs’ Exercise Hydration Mix. I became so enamored of the product that it earned a spot in my Things I Like series of articles. When Boulder-based Skratch Labs introduced their new Matcha + Lemons flavor, I jumped at the chance to try the company’s latest addition.

Skratch Matcha+Lemons

Image courtesy of Skratch Labs

As with the other Exercise Hydration Mix flavors, Skratch Labs’ Matcha + Lemon is lower in sugar and higher in electrolytes than typical sports drinks. Unlike those other flavors, however, Matcha + Lemons contains caffeine (albeit naturally occurring). Additionally, the matcha green tea provides phytonutrients and the amino acid L-theanine. Because the entire leaf is used, matcha green tea offers higher concentrations of antioxidants compared to traditional green teas.

OK, it’s good for you, but how does it taste? It tastes good. Really good. Neither the green tea or the lemons are overpowering. The flavor is distinctive, but at the same time, it’s subtle. Whether you take a small sip or big gulp, there’s no annoying aftertaste. In a word, it tastes clean (probably because it’s made with real food and not chemicals). Even my wife–who is not typically fond of sports drinks–declared the thirst-quenching flavor to be extremely pleasing.

In use, I found the Matcha + Lemons formula to be a tasty complement to Skratch Labs’s other Hydration Mix flavors. I never experienced any gastrointestinal issues, and didn’t tire of the new flavor on longer rides (even after ice cubes had long since melted). Although the Matcha + Lemons mix does contain caffeine (approximately 16 mg per 16 oz serving), it wasn’t enough to make me jittery or cause other unwanted side effects.

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix is available in single-serving packs or resealable one-pound bags. In addition to the Matcha + Limes flavor, the mix is offered in Lemons + Limes, Raspberries, Oranges, Pineapples, and Apples + Cinnamon. All flavors use only real fruit, and contain no artificial colors or preservatives.

Disclosure: Skratch Labs provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

Second Look: Hutchinson Sector 28 Tubeless Tires

After analyzing three years of visitor stats for the GRAVELBIKE site, it’s pretty clear that people like reading about tires. This year alone, five of the top-ten articles have been tire reviews. One of the more popular pieces is last summer’s review of Hutchinson’s Sector 28 tires. With the increased interest in road tubeless setups, we decided to give the Sector 28s a second look.

When we first tested the Hutchinson Sector 28 tires, we paired them sans-tubes with Pacenti SL23 rims. That combination produced an extremely smooth ride, but the tires’ tight fit made us dread a roadside tube swap if the sealant failed to fix a puncture. So for this go-around, we opted to test the Sector 28 tires with and without inner tubes on rims of various widths.

Sector 28 front (tube)

Sector 28s installed with inner tubes on HED Ardennes Plus LT wheels.

Installed with inner tubes on both narrow and wide wheelsets, we were pleasantly surprised at just how lively the Sector 28 tires felt. Fitted with 80g Mavic tubes, the Hutchinson tires retained most, if not all of their supple tubeless feel. Despite a minor weight penalty, acceleration was on par with lighter tires of similar size such as the 700×28 Panaracer Gravelking (using identical rims and tubes). Interestingly enough, we ended up running the same pressure (70-75 front, 80-85 rear) with inner tubes and in tubeless mode.

For our tubeless testing, we used HED’s Ardennes Plus LT wheels and Caffelatex sealant. Mounting the Sector 28 tires was effortless with the 25mm-wide HED rims, and the beads seated at 50-60psi using a standard floor pump. As we stated in our original review, the Hutchinson tires can be run at lower pressures (in tubeless mode) without negatively affecting performance. This was even more apparent with the wider HED wheels, as the rims’ extra width gave the tire a more pronounced u-shaped profile.

Sector 28 (tubeless)

The Hutchinson tires set up tubeless using Caffelatex sealant.

Tire manufacturers may be slow to embrace tubeless technology for road use, but Hutchinson’s Sector 28 is a real bright spot in today’s market. The French company has succeeded in delivering the advantages of tubeless tires (puncture resistance, safety) without sacrificing the performance of lightweight clinchers. Riders looking to explore dirt and gravel roads without the worry of pinch-flats would be well served by the Sector 28 tires.

Disclosure: Caffelatex, HED, Hutchinson, and Mavic provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.