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Archive for the ‘gear reviews’ Category

So, I bought a bike. A real bike. Let me elaborate.

A few years ago I bought a really pretty bike from Walmart made by a company called Huffy. I looked at consumer reports and reviews on line and it seemed like a good value. I hadn’t been on a bike in 23 years and back then you had two choices; a touring bike or a 10-speed. There was no such thing as a mountain bike, well, at least not in the mainstream. This time around I wanted a mountain bike style even though I wasn’t going to be doing any hardcore off-road riding. With that in mind I made a purchase. The Walmart offering seemed tall enough, it was cute with a sparkly purple and silver paint job and it was cheap. I’d normally use the word “inexpensive” but in this case “cheap” fits the bill. After 169 kilometers I realized that Huffy Canada makes the biggest piece-of-crap-sorry-excuse-for-a-bicycle on the continent and maybe even the entire planet.

First of all, it wasn’t assembled properly from the get-go. Secondly, the components are so cheaply made that it is laughable. The brake levers were partially plastic which I didn’t notice until the lever was fully engaged. The frame wasn’t the right size for me; in fact, I can’t see the configuration being right for anyone. I spent much of my time hunched over and I was starting to have pain in my left knee after each ride.

Last week, when I went out with Bryan and the kids, it felt like I was pedaling lead. Bryan checked the bike over for me and the back brakes were not aligned properly. By the wear on the brake pad it had been like that for more than one outing. The brake wasn’t rubbing enough to cause a noise but enough to slow the wheel and wear the pad in an L shape. Lovely. The crank wasn’t made properly, the brake holders were low-grade metal, the welds underneath the frame looked like someone had chewed up bubblegum and stuck it there. There is no pride in workmanship at all. I was beginning to realize that this wasn’t just junk made by some low-grade manufacturer from Canada who gets things done for the lowest price in some off-shore locale, but also that this bike could be dangerous. What appalls me most is that they sell many of their bikes for children.

This wasn’t my first negative experience with Huffy either. The same day I bought my bike, I also bought one for my son. He was 8 at the time. The very first week his gears failed completely. They were integrated in the handlebar and the interior “teeth” were plastic and weak plastic at that. I called Huffy and they refused to fix it under warranty. Walmart wouldn’t take it back. So I ordered a new shifter for him. The price was under $30 which surprised me. I was guaranteed it would be there in 2-3 weeks. Almost 8-months after they billed my credit card, I was still waiting for a part which I was finally told was on back order. A month later I called back and was told that the part was discontinued. Two days later we bought him a Haro from a reputable dealer.

Bryan, darling husband that he is, spent part of the weekend McGyver-ing this shoddily made hunk of junk enough so I could safely go out on a 20 K ride with kids and him. After this latest adventure, I vowed that I would never ride this so-called bicycle again. Ever! I didn’t even want to lay eyes on another product made by Huffy Canada ever again.

My favorite bike shop isn’t open on Sundays (for the staff to have family time) and Monday was a holiday here in Canada so practically everything was closed. The moment Brantford Cyclepath opened on Tuesday morning I was through the doors and getting advice from my friend and bike sales guru, Julian. Just over an hour later I had chosen a really nice bike—a Louis Garneau Helix 20°. Even better, it was on sale! I paid for it and a CO2 pump, then arranged to have Bryan pick it up when he got home from work.

I was akin to a child at Christmas time. In fact, I’ve been smiling since he brought the bike home on Tuesday evening. I have a REAL bike! It fits me perfectly. It has a seat that doesn’t make me feel bruised. It has metal pedals which incidentally hurt when you accidentally bang them against your shin. Said bike has disc brakes. Holy stopping power, Batman!! It has decent gears. It even has front shocks. The brake levers are well made. The entire bike is well-engineered.

Of course, wouldn’t you know that second that he brings my new toy home, the skies open up and we are treated to a thunderstorm. I did end up getting out for a little bit and rode about 8 km on backstreets. Yesterday evening we cycled a 20 KM loop that I had only ever done on the bike from hell. The difference between having a decent bicycle and something that belongs in a dumpster was 15 minutes. You are wondering what I mean by that? Well, I was that much quicker which is amazing given that we had record breaking heat and humidity yesterday. The difference I attribute to the Helix 20° being considerably easier to ride… it is lighter, the gears change smoothly, the brakes are wonderful, and my position on the bike is so much more comfortable. It didn’t feel like I was working as hard as I usually have to. Even better, I didn’t experience any knee pain last night or this morning.

The moral of this story… Never buy a department store bike especially something made by a manufacturer like Huffy Canada. Go to a proper bike shop and get fitted for a bike that suits your intended use. You’d be surprised at how inexpensive a good bike can be and you’ll save yourself a lot of the headaches that I had. Per kilometer a better quality bike works out to be much more economical. As my darling husband says, “sometimes you can’t afford the cheap stuff”.

With that, I’m off to go wash my new ride. She’s a little dirty and dusty from yesterday’s fun.

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Today’s post is a clothing review and is geared towards the ladies… so guys, you might want to go read something else unless you like reading about sports bras (and the answer is “no, you won’t find a picture of me in my underwear in this commentary” – lol).

A week ago I was planning a trip to one of my favorite stores, Mountain Equipment Co-op in Burlington, with the intent of buying a sports bra. I’ve had dozens of styles in the past and except for one by Lunaire, which I can’t seem to find anymore, they’ve all given me a giant uni-boob. Others have lacked adequate support being more akin to a t-shirt than a bra. That is, until this one.

Before we went I browsed MEC’s website and saw this double layer sports bra by an American company called Moving Comfort. After reading over forty very positive reviews on the manufacturer’s website I decided the “Maia” was the one for me. I went through their sizing guide only to discover that it was a little out so I went with the size I was currently wearing. I checked MEC’s stock and had a black one put aside.

When we went to pick it up I tried it on because I’ve learned the hard way that brands vary greatly. So there I am in the change rooms and I can overhear a lady in the next stall chatting on the phone with someone. I put the garment on and started jumping up and down as if I was using a jump rope. I’m a DD girl so I had to check that this bra did indeed reduce the “bounce” as it had claimed. Clearly the lady thought I was nuts as she commented about the person making a racket in the next room. Too funny! My breasts were very secure in this bra and even better… no uni-boob!

I love the double layer construction which adds to the support. The cups have an underwire but it seems sturdy and it doesn’t poke at all. I hate pokey underwires and I can’t imagine running with one on. The best part is that this bra is adjustable and I’ve found that many styles claiming to be sports bras are not. I am on the widest setting so I will be able to make it smaller as I lose weight or as the bra starts to wear. The front of this bra reminds me of a tank style swimsuit as it is quite high. That was also one of the few complaints in the reviews I had read earlier. My running t-shirts are crew neck so I’m not overly worried about it.

The real test was at home, running on the dreadmill. The “Maia” by Moving Comfort passed with flying colors. My DD’s were well supported and kept in place. The bounce was minimized greatly and there wasn’t any chaffing, digging, pinching, or the like. I’ve only bought one, for now, but will likely purchase one more in the coming month.

Definitely a good buy if you are a plus-sized or amply bosomed lady who needs full and comfortable support.

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