Kask Mojito Helmet Review

I’ve previously written about the Kask Vertigo helmet, which I’ve used for a year now and have come to love.  In fact, during my trip to Steamboat last fall, the Vertigo saved me from serious injury when I went OTB into a creekbed, landing helmet-first on a rock.  My bell was rung for a minute or so, but I continued the ride otherwise unscathed, and greatly appreciated how my helmet held up and performed when I needed it.

This year, I’ve been riding for the past few weeks with a Kask Mojito.  The Mojito weighs about 30 grams less than the Vertigo (and significantly less than my old Lazers), which is appreciated on the head.

Comfort-wise, the Mojito is fantastic.  I wear a Large.  The chinstrap is covered in soft leather where it touches your face, and is infinitely adjustable, including great adjustment around the ears to ensure that the straps aren’t pressing on your ears or head in an uncomfortable fashion.

The key to the Mojito’s comfort, however, is the feature that it shares with the Vertigo.  The band at the back of the helmet is hinged where it attaches to your head.  That means that you can adjust the band up or down to ride higher or lower on your head.  For example, if it hits the edge of your cap, you can move the band higher or lower.  If you want a more secure fit, you can lower it down further on your head, and use the adjuster to pull the helmet down securely from the rear.  It provides adjustment in a vertical axis that most helmets do not have, and I cannot overemphasize how critical that has proven to be in making this helmet one of the most comfortable I’ve ever worn.

In this picture, right where the rear band goes up into the helmet, the ‘hinge’ is on the inside of the helmet.

Ventilation and comfort are great.

This is the custom Axletree edition…

The dial adjuster on the rear band is easy to use, even with gloves, and provides an amazing range of motion–making it easy to wear this helmet with no cap, or with the thickest covering you can put on your head.

I haven’t had the chance to wear this in warm weather yet, but the vents look to be very effective, and I’m confident it will perform much like the Vertigo when the sun eventually does come out.

So Kask Helmets: they’re light.  They’re stylish.  They’re the most comfortable helmets I’ve ever worn.  And they protect your noggin when you get in over your head, if you’ll pardon the pun.  Highly recommended.

Opening up the Legs

I had to work last night, so I missed the Wednesday night hammerthon.  Accordingly, I headed out on a solo ride this morning.

Coming out of my ‘hood, there is a gentle climb that was into the wind.  I was about a mile from my house, breathing heavily.  My legs were shot.  My thighs were tight.  They felt heavy.  They felt like I was stirring concrete that was starting to set.  The worse they felt, the more my doubt set in.  If I can’t ride two miles, how can I ride 200?  I rode too much this winter.  I’m anemic again.  I’m on the outside.  As I rode up the hill, into the wind, my cadence slowed down like a washing machine ending its spin cycle.  Slower and slower I plodded along, just barely cresting the tiny rise.

On the far side of the rise, I was greeted with a steady headwind.  I ground my teeth and fucking hated being on the bike.  Why.  Why?  Why am I doing this?  Major life questioning started to creep in.  You know how you can set a paper towel on a spot of water and watch the water wick through the towel?  Slowly but progressively, the doubt spread through the fibers of my consciousness.

I turned out of the wind and pedaled down a gentle decline, the sun warm on the side of my face.  I breathed inordinately heavily, labored beyond the reasonable extent of my effort.  I started to contemplate how crappy I felt.  A car passed, and I started to think about the three foot rule.  I swerved around a pothole.  I shifted up a gear, going a little faster.

The next thing I recall was pushing as hard as I could up a hard climb, miles down the road, with my legs fully engaged and my chest throbbing.  I was surprised by the intensity of my effort, and surprised to have missed several miles in the ride.  It’s like the phenomenon of driving somewhere, and just simply not remembering parts of the drive.

At the top of that climb, I settled into a steady cadence down the backside of the hill, and then dug in to a long, gradual incline.  (Long in Illinois terms).  Things felt good, and I shifted up a gear, picking up some speed.  I shifted up a gear again.  I realized that I was starting to work hard, and I felt my opportunity.  I rose out of the saddle and pushed just to the point of sustainability.  The throbbing in my chest subsided and the lead in my legs was replaced with a pleasant burn.

I reached the turnaround point and stopped, just for a minute, to take a long draw off of my water.  I turned and faced the sun, the wind at my back, and pushed off…clipping back in and settling back into a healthy rhythm.  The doubt was replaced with the whir of a well-oiled drivetrain and the sound of my unzipped jacket flapping in the wind.  My legs were opened up, my mood had cleared, my spirits had lifted.

Brooks C17 Cambium Saddle Review

For the past couple of months, I’ve been doing a lot of riding on my Moots Routt, putting in miles in preparation for Dirty Kanza.  At Dirty Kanza, I’ll be a part of a special project that will have more details in the future…but as a component of that project, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to spend some saddle time on a Brooks C17 Cambium saddle.  (I test rode both the C17 and C17s (short) version, and settled on the C17 standard).  I’ve put many hours on the saddle, with rides ranging from 45 minutes to 5+ hours, and feel pretty confident that I know how it performs.  I only have a few months on it, so I cannot comment on long-term durability thus far, but what I’ve read elsewhere has been positive.

My Cambium went on the Moots, and sees all conditions.  Mud, dirt, gravel, snow, rain, heat–you name it.  The Cambium is a synthetic material saddle, and is perfect for these kind of trying conditions.

I haven’t had a good chance to take glorious photos of it, but here are some garage poseur shots:

Note the relatively flat profile:

Gently textured material:

I typically ride my Ergon SM3Pro saddles on mountain and gravel bikes, and I’m a big fan of the SM3, and was a little reluctant to switch saddles, particularly in front of a 200 mile gravel ride.  But I like trying new products, and this is a Brooks-related project, and so I slapped it on my little titanium wonder and checked it out.

My first ride was about 25 miles, and that was an adjustment period.  The saddle didn’t require any break-in period, but the profile was a little different than the SM3–there is no central depression (although Brooks does offer a carve version with a central cutout.  From what I’ve heard, the carve version removes some of the integrity of the saddle, and makes it ride a little softer.  I really didn’t want that, and hence I skipped the carve.  If you like a softer saddle/cushier ride, check it out).

I like flat saddles.  Saddles that have a rise or ridge in the middle, or that are very curved across the surface, are uncomfortable for me.  If you look at the C17, it appears to have a curved profile, and hence I was a bit leery.  However, after just a few minutes on the saddle, I could tell that this would not be an issue.

The material that the saddle is made out of is magical.  It has the perfect amount of give to be comfortable for long days in the saddle–but is firm enough to be supportive (and not bouncy) for your hardest ‘in the saddle’ spinathons.  It doesn’t change texture when it gets wet, so it doesn’t get slippery in the rain (or when you’re really sweating).  The shape of the saddle is perfection–supportive where your sit bones are, but nicely contoured such that the front of the saddle doesn’t rub on your inner thighs.  The rivets are a nice aesthetic touch, but they are never felt while riding, because of their position.

If you get ‘on the rivet’ and really hammer, the contour of the saddle is again perfect–sliding forward an inch to a more aggressive position provides a narrowed seating area that is ideal for your hardest efforts.  Slide back to a normal position, and it’s support embodied for daylong onslaughts.  Sit up and slide all the way back, and it’s a comfortable perch to recover from.

I like the look and aesthetic of the saddle–the black looks great on the Moots.  Thus far, several months in, the comfort is amazing.  I don’t miss the SM3 in any way, even when I’m on the bike for hours at a time.  Thus far, the experience is overwhelmingly positive.

Are there any criticisms?  No–but I have 2 observations.  First, this isn’t a “light” saddle.  Going from the SM3 Pro or Pro Carbon to this saddle is a palpable increase in weight.  You don’t feel it on the bike, but if you hold both in your hand, you can tell the difference immediately.  The offset in comfort and durability is worth it, however.

Second, this is a saddle that I would use (and will use) without hesitation in the realm of multi-hour gravel rides.  If I was spec’ing a saddle for the most intense road rides, I would stick with a traditional road saddle that is harder and lighter.  This isn’t the saddle to put on your Madone, if you’re going to go out and hammer it for 90 minutes.  Right tool for the right job.

I’ll keep updating this review as I get more time in with this saddle, but thus far, it has been a worthy upgrade to the Moots.

Glory Days

I haven’t posted anything substantive on here in nearly a month.  It isn’t for lack of riding.  I’ve been riding a lot–more than ever, perhaps.  My riding has been steady efforts, for longer duration than I’d normally ride.  The positive side is that I’m building an endurance base that should suit me well for this season’s upcoming challenges–predominantly Dirty Kanza.  The downsides are numerous and include: a) boredom; b) a paucity of interesting things to blog about; and, c) a marked diminution in my top end.

I was driving home late last night, after a work meeting, and was listening to some Bruce Springsteen.  Glory Days came on, and I started to think.  I recently had one of my best friends tell me that he had reached a pinnacle, and that’s such a scary thought to me.  It’s a scary thought because it implies that a decline will soon follow.  Peak, pinnacle, plateau–they’re all concerning, because they imply a lack of improvement.

So I was driving along in the dark, wondering if there will come a point in time where I will reflect back on the past couple of years as my glory days.  That is such a profoundly depressing thought–that at some point in my life, I will reflect back and see the best of life in the past.  It frankly scares me to think about identifying a pinnacle or peak.  It scares me in so many contexts.

In the realm of riding, I know I need to bust things up a bit and start throwing down some intervals.  I know I can continue my upward growth once I change up my training regimen. I’m hopeful it will come back to me quickly.  But in the realm of life, so much is changing–and so fast.  I look forward to warm weather and more photo ops.  I look forward to opportunities to truly break in the Fuel, and share some thoughts about it.  I try to embrace the future with optimism, notwithstanding my tendencies to the contrary.

Frank Sinatra said that the best is yet to come.  Dave Matthews said that we should wash out the tired notion that the best is yet to come.  I think that what Dave meant is that we should focus on making each moment the best that it can be, rather than assuming that things will get better at some point in the future.  I think his perspective might be superior.

The future is uncertain and largely beyond our control.  I give myself over to that powerlessness with regard to things that I cannot change.  I will work to improve on the things which I can improve upon, and I will work to enjoy myself in the moments that I am fortunate enough to enjoy with my friends and family.  I will fight back with ferocity against the concept that things are at a peak or pinnacle, and I will push on to the next summit and the ones beyond.

I’ll get back to blogging with more regularity when the moment is right.  For now, I’m focusing on rebuilding my base.

45NRTH Sturmfist 4 Update

I had previously shared some preliminary thoughts on the Sturmfist 4.  I now have quite a few miles and hours on them, and have some updates.

They are, bar none, the best cold weather bike gloves I’ve ever worn.  They’re the best cold weather gloves I’ve ever worn.  Ski gloves, mittens, whatever you want to compare them against.

Last weekend, I did several hours on the fatbike, out in the wind, riding snowmobile tracks across bare farm fields.  Temps were 13 degrees, wind was 25mph, wind chill was bitter.  I wore the gloves, by themselves, no chemical heaters, nothing else.  My hands were perfectly warm and comfortable.  I even stopped to drop air pressure.  Because the wool liner gloves are so flexible, I was able to remove just the shell glove, and keep the liners on while I fiddled with the presta valve stem.

Last night, temps were around -6, wind chill was around -30.  Moreover, it was dark.  I did have a pair of chemical heaters in the gloves, and frankly, my hands weren’t just comfortable…they were warm.  Not a tinge of coldness, notwithstanding riding somewhat technical trails and having to have a finger constantly on the brake lever.  I threw the heaters in the shell about 20 minutes before the ride, the gloves were warm and toasty when I put them on, and my hands were perfect the whole ride.

Cold hands and cold feet are the single biggest challenge for me in the winter, because I have poor circulation due to the Raynauds.  The 45NRTH Wolvhammer and Sturmfist combination are, quite frankly, what enable me to ride outside when it’s cold out.  There is no way I can overstate how much of an improvement these two products have made in the quality of my winter riding.  Without them, I either can’t ride outside, or I ride outside and freeze.  And I’m talking painful, hands stop working, no color or blood flow, potentially damaging cold hands.

I can’t speak to long-term durability of the gloves yet.  But if you have cold hands, the Sturmfist 4 is the glove you should be looking at.  There are few products that have had such a direct and meaningful impact on my personal comfort.  There are many companies that make jackets, or pants, or hats.  I have not found any company that makes a comparable glove.  They are a game changer–they are a product that literally makes my life better.  I can offer no higher praise.