Cannondale Ryker, Camelback Baja, Wolaver’s Alta Gracia | Gear and Beer June 2012

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Gear: Cannondale Ryker
Ever wish your bike helmet could have more air vents without compromising its integrity and durability? Cannondale might have granted this wish with its introduction of a new line of helmets this year that have an emphasis on cross-country bike riding. The Ryker model uses an aluminum alloy reinforcement built into the exoskeleton to support areas that would otherwise be weak (namely the vent bridges), making for a noggin protector that is rated very highly for both safety and ventilation. This is achieved without added weight—at 335 grams (for size L/XL) the unit’s weight is similar to many other mountain helmets. The adjustment system, including a micro-dial—easy to fine-tune with one hand—and soft, plush webbing, makes for a very comfortable fit and wear. To me, the shell does seem a bit bulky and the straps a bit thick, but neither really interferes with the overall feel of the helmet, more just how it looks. The Cannondale Ryker more than makes up for this by incorporating some pretty cool decals and pricing the helmet competitively.
$79.99; Onion River Sports, Montpelier; Ski Rack, Burlington; West Hill Shop, Putney. Online,

Gear: Camelbak Baja LR
The company that has often led the way in “hands-free hydration” systems adds yet another weapon to its arsenal for 2012: stand-up paddling hydration vests. The Baja LR is designed with an all-day paddleboard adventure in mind. The vest is predominantly made of mesh, in order to keep you cool, and I was surprised that after an hour of bare-chested wear, there was only a little chafing where the chest straps meet the waist belt. The vest also comes equipped with numerous pockets for snacks, sunscreen, an inflatable personal flotation device, an extra layer, or whatever else you might need for a day out on the water. Camelbak could improve on the baja with the hip belt pockets, which fasten with only small squares of Velcro that open easily when wet, leaving your belongings susceptible to falling in the drink. Still, other nice features include a drawstring holster to secure your paddle when you need both hands free and an emergency whistle for … well, you know. The location of the whistle is a bit awkward and requires you to remove it from its attachment point to blow it, but who’s in a hurry when you need to be rescued? The water bladder is housed in the waist belt, which is beneficial in keeping your center of gravity lower and not interfering with your strokes. The vest doubles nicely as a biking hydration pack, and I plan on trying it under my ski jacket this winter too.
$120; Umiak Outfitters, Stowe; Waterfront Diving Center, Burlington; Ragged Mountain Equipment, Intervale, New Hampshire. Online,

Beer: Wolaver’s Alta Gracia Coffee Porter
Did I go to the store to buy coffee or beer? Doesn’t matter, I’ll just get both in one bottle. A bit like iced, carbonated coffee, this beer has few rivals when it comes to overpowering coffee flavor. While the java predominates, one also picks up hints of vanilla, caramel, and chocolate on the tongue. Alta Garcia pours a dark mahogany brown color (like coffee, not surprisingly) and has a good inch of frothy head that flattens out after a short while. The body comes across medium and actually quite spot-on for a porter. The nose picks up, again, fresh-ground coffee, rounded out with cream and vanilla. In a coffee-bean-shell, if you can’t decide between breakfast and beer, you don’t have to. And to boot, it’s organic!

Josh Gleiner

Josh Gleiner skis, bikes, hikes, and climbs through the seasons.