First Impressions: Alpine Luddites Mini Frame Pack

Thanks to the bikepacking boom, hundreds of companies across the globe now crank out seatpacks, handlebar rolls, and top tube bags. And while nearly every bag maker offers the basics, finding a lightweight and compact pack designed to fit inside the top tube/seat tube junction proved more difficult than expected. Thankfully, John Campbell of Alpine Luddites was up to the task, and offered to turn my idea into reality.

The pack mounts securely with four Velcro straps.

Continue Reading “First Impressions: Alpine Luddites Mini Frame Pack”

First Impressions: Wolf Tooth PowerTrac Chainring

Like many trends in the bicycle world, oval chainrings go through periods of dormancy and popularity. And while elliptical rings haven’t gained much traction in the on-road sector, there’s definitely no shortage of companies offering oval rings for dirt and gravel riding. On the surface, elliptical chainrings may look similar, but Wolf Tooth Components takes a slightly different approach with their US-made PowerTrac Elliptical rings.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike gravel grinder wolf tooth chainring oval
Image courtesy of Wolf Tooth.

Continue Reading “First Impressions: Wolf Tooth PowerTrac Chainring”

First Impressions: Smoove Chain Lube

I like quiet bikes. The last thing I want to hear when I’m riding is a noisy chain. And while I know the benefits of a properly lubed chain, I’d rather spend my time riding than cleaning and lubing my bike. Dry lubes promise sparkling drivetrains, but that often comes at the expense of longevity. Wet lubes offer long-lasting protection, but they can be messy. Finding a lube that combines the best of both worlds is a challenge, but Smoove’s universal chain lube ($14.95 / 150 mL) makes it easy to keep your bike lubed and mess-free.

Based in South Africa, Smoove designed their chain lube to withstand the brutal conditions faced by racers competing in that country’s Cape Epic off-road race. Unlike solvent-based lubes, Smoove utilizes a proprietary water-based formula that contains wax and special additives. Did you raise an eyebrow when you read the word wax? Don’t freak out, Smoove is nothing like those oldschool wax lubes that left your bike’s drivetrain looking like a wax museum reject.

Continue Reading “First Impressions: Smoove Chain Lube”

First Impressions: Five Ten Freerider Pro Shoes

When I decided to give flat pedals a try after 25 years of riding clipless, I knew that the right shoes would be a major factor in the flat pedals’ success. When it comes to shoes for flat pedal use, Five Ten pretty much wrote the book with their sticky-soled Freerider family of footwear (say that three times fast). I started with the company’s Freerider Contact model, and it’s served me well for several seasons. In the back of my mind, though, I found myself wishing for a slightly stiffer version with more traction on and off the bike. The folks at Five Ten must be psychic, because they developed the Freerider Pro ($150 MSRP) with exactly those features–and more.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike gravel grinder Five Ten 5.10 Freerider Pro
The author’s Freerider Pros after several months of testing.

Continue Reading “First Impressions: Five Ten Freerider Pro Shoes”