I used to get a ton of stuff in the mail from companies who hoped I’d review their products. There was a problem with that, though: most of what I got was pretty good.
Wait. What? Why would there be a problem with “pretty good?” Well, there isn’t, not from a day-to-day usage point of view. In fact, most everything I own and use throughout the day would fall into that category. For example:
- Pants I am currently wearing (jeans from The Gap): pretty good
- Keyboard I am typing on (Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 6000): pretty good
- Bar of soap I used to shower with (Lever 2000): pretty good
But it’s not like I’d actually want to write about any of those things. Because those would be short and dull reviews: “This item is ok. I found it does what it ought to do. I shall, however, not miss it when I lose it due to short term memory issues.”
You should know that I don’t return things that are sent to me. Whether I like it or not, or whether I talk about it or not, or whether I review it or not, its mine. I’m just too lazy to send stuff back. So don’t send me anything you want me to keep for “a review period.”
More importantly, I only talk about stuff I really love, or really hate. If your product doesn’t make me want to write about it, I won’t.
Astonishingly, this has resulted in much less free stuff in the mail.
That said, once in a while I come across something I really love. Maybe someone sent it to me, maybe I bought it myself. Regardless, I find myself telling people about these things, because I have ridiculously high confidence that — like mine — their life will be better if they have this thing.
So here’s a list of a few new things I love. In the order they occurred to me when I decided to write a post about stuff I love today.
(Full Disclosure: Shimano has given me a set of XTR brakes, and I’m friends with Dustin Brady, the Marketing Guru at Shimano.)
So many of the guys in the core team have abandoned hydraulic disc brakes on their mountain bikes. Hydraulics were just too finicky, they rub, they have to constantly be tweaked and adjusted.
So they had gone to mechanical disc brakes.
I hadn’t, yet, but I was thinking about it.
And then the new Shimano XTR Brakes came out. Well, actually the whole new XTR came out, and honestly I love it all. But if there were one thing I had to pick about this new group, it’d be the brakes. There is nothing like them on the market. Not even close.
I get smooth, perfectly-modulated, true one-finger braking (I’m a middle-finger braker, by the way, but that’s a topic for another post) with the new XTR.
And I get it without constant tweaking and adjusting (which is crucial when you are a horrible mechanic).
Why are they so great? I don’t know. Technology stolen from alien spacecraft, probably. But these are — finally — the disc brakes that deliver on the promise of disc brakes (incredible power in any trail conditions), without the hassle I’ve come to associate with disc brakes.
They are expensive brakes, for sure. But they’re worth it. Worth it, in fact, to the extent that I am saving to buy and put these brakes on my Stumpy 29er, replacing the XX brakes currently on it.
They’re just that good.
Full Disclosure: From time to time, Smartwool sends me stuff. But I also buy a ton of Smartwool stuff, and I can never remember what I bought and what I was comped.)
I’ve made it clear, many times over I think, that I’m a big fan of the comfort and fit of Smartwool. There are a couple products, though, that I’m lately wearing pretty much every day.
First, the Microweight Tee. Smartwool comped me one, and I loved it so much I’ve bought two more. Honestly, it’s a rarity that I don’t have one on. I wear one under my jersey as a base layer when I’m biking in the winter. I wear one under my running shirt when I’m running in the winter. I wear one either by itself, with a jacket, or under another at home and work (same place for me).
They’re super light, super thin, super soft, and make everything just a little bit warmer and more comfortable.
From Fall through Spring, I pretty much always have one (all of them black, because I have color coordination issues) on.
Next, the Smartwool PhD Running Ultra Light Mini. I love these for two very easy reasons: I can run in them without my feet blistering up, and I don’t wear holes in the toes nearly as often as I do with other socks.
It’s that second reason that’s actually crucial. For whatever reason — I don’t know what it is — most socks don’t last even a single run for me. I wear a hole through the front toe by the end of ten miles. (For those of you about to tell me it’s because my shoes are too small or I need to trim my toenails, I’ve already thought of that.)
Full Disclosure: I have no relationship with Yurbuds and get no special deal on them.
If you’re anti-iPod when biking, you can skip this one. If your existing earbuds fit just fine and don’t constantly fall out, you can skip this one.
If, on the other hand, you like listening to music while you ride and your earbuds either fall out all the time, you should look into Yurbuds. They’re little silicone tips that fit over regular iPod-type buds, but when you put them in and then twist about a sixteenth of a turn forward, they lock into place.
And they just stay there. For the whole ride, or run, or whatever. Nice and comfortably, and without being too isolating.
I like to always keep one ear free when I ride (and yeah, run), partly so I can hear what’s going on around me, and partly because I like to be able to still have a conversation. So I have a set of headphones where I just went ahead and cut the second bud off right where the cable splits; that way I don’t have a loose earbud dangling around.
More Next Week
This is actually only half the list of stuff I wanted to write about; I have three more things I wanted to talk about; I’ll post them on Monday.
Meanwhile, add to the list. What bike-related thing do you love enough you find yourself telling others about?