First Impressions: TRP RG957 Brakes

TRP is widely known for their gravel-friendly cantilever and linear-pull brakes, but the company also offers a wide range of high-performance caliper brakes. One model–the RG957–combines long-reach compatibility with modern aesthetics for a brake that’s equally at home on paved or unpaved roads.

TRP_RG957_Front

Plenty of clearance with 30mm (actual width) tires and 25mm rims.

The RG957 ($179.99 MSRP) brakes share many of the features found on TRP’s other road calipers, including forged-and-machined aluminum arms, stainless steel hardware, Teflon® bushings, and inplace adjustable pad holders. At 170g per-caliper, the RG957s are on par with 47mm-57mm reach brakes from Shimano and Velo Orange. TRP offers the brakes in three finishes: matte grey (which we tested), matte black, and polished silver.

Installing the RG957 brakes is just what you’d expect with dual-pivot sidepulls–quick and easy. The brakes’ fittings take standard tools, and the cable adjusters are easily operated with one hand (even while riding). Despite repeatedly switching between rims of various widths, the brakes always remained in adjustment. TRP’s deep drop calipers cleared 32mm cross-type knobbies with room to spare, and accommodated full-size fenders with narrower (25-28mm) tires.

TRP_RG957_Rear

The RG957′s in-place holders offer easy adjustment and pad replacement.

Paired with modern integrated levers (we used SRAM‘s Force 22 and new Rival 22 controls), the RG957s deliver powerful braking with a mildly progressive feel. Whether braking from the hoods or the drops, modulating the long-reach TRP stoppers was predictable and consistent. Part of the credit goes to TRP’s alloy rim compound brake pads. The RG957′s pads required virtually no breaking in, and remained quiet during our test period. The pads’ wet weather performance was better than expected, with little difference in power in wet or dry conditions.

Some riders may scoff at the thought of using sidepulls for off-road use, but we found that the RG957s actually outperformed many cantilever and linear-pull brakes. Not once did we find ourselves wishing for more braking power when riding dirt and gravel aboard bikes equipped with 25mm-32mm tires. Discs and v-brakes may work better for larger, more aggressive tires, but for road-style tires, the TRPs proved more than adequate. If you’re building up an all-roads bike that requires 47mm-57mm brakes, the RG957 should definitely be on your short list for consideration.

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

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.

First Impressions: Alpinestars Moab Gloves

When you think of Moab, images of slickrock, epic singletrack, and desert heat spring to mind. Alpinestars designed their Moab full-finger gloves to excel in exactly those types of conditions. I put the company’s gloves through the proverbial wringer to see if they lived up to their namesake.

Balancing ventilation and protection in a glove can be tricky. For its Moab glove ($44.95 MSRP), Alpinestars uses mesh/spandex main construction with synthetic leather reinforcements. Wrist and knuckle padding help protect against falls and impact, while the double-layer palm maintains a positive tactile feel. If I had to categorize the Moab, it sits in between a minimalist race glove, and more heavily armored gravity model.

AStars Moab gloves

The author’s Moab gloves after several months of use and countless launderings.

The Moab’s fit is slim, but not restrictive. I usually wear a large size glove, and the large Alpinestars fit me, well, like a glove. Riders with thick fingers or meaty palms may want to size up, however. While the majority of the glove is nicely proportioned, the thumbs are a bit shorter than expected. This created some tightness between the thumb and forefinger, but it didn’t seem to affect function or durability.

For warm weather riding, the Alpinestars gloves offer a reasonable amount of ventilation. They may lack the hands-in-the-breeze feeling of single-layer gloves, but they’re extremely effective at managing moisture. Despite my copious perspiration, the Moabs never felt clammy or slippery. The fingers’ silicone print offered increased grip and control during braking, and didn’t peel off after the first washing.

Although they lack the exoskeleton-like armor found on many enduro or downhill-oriented models, Alpinestars’ Moab gloves easily fended off branches and sticker bushes. I happened to be wearing the Moab gloves when I took a nasty spill back in May, and aside from some cosmetic damage to the rubberized graphics and minor abrasion on one palm, they remained intact (which is more than I can say for myself). Three months after the aforementioned crash, the Alpinestars gloves are still going strong.

Riders looking for a lightweight glove that still offers a modicum of protection would do well to consider Alpinestars’ Moab model. With sizes ranging from XXS all the way up to 3XL, and seven colorways to choose from, chances are there’s one that’s just right for you.

Disclosure: Alpinestars provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.