Gear: Cardo BK-1
Road cycling can sometimes seem like a somewhat antisocial activity. It’s very hard to converse with your mates when riding single file, wind blowing in your ears—probably reasons that I find myself on the road alone so frequently. Or maybe that’s because I stink, I don’t know. However, I have been testing a product called the Cardo BK-1, a nice little communication unit that integrates into your helmet. (In addition to communication, you can use this system with any Bluetooth-compatible device to take cell phone calls, listen to music with MP3 players or get directions from a GPS system.) It looks a little funky with the receiver perched atop your helmet, but what a difference it makes in conversation ability! The earpiece sits against your ear, though it’s not hot or uncomfortable, and it won’t block outside noises like traffic; and the audio is so clear, it sounds like the person on the other end is right next to you. Amazingly the device filters out wind noise. It is lightweight (only 50 grams) and unobtrusive. The batteries lasted at least six hours on one charge, and if you’re riding longer than that in one day, you might not be feeling chatty by hour six anyway. The reception works up to a quarter-mile on straightaways (if you’re riding any further apart, reception becomes crackly), but deteriorates a bit on steep hills and curves. However, I do have to mention that the “on-demand” talk feature is a bit finicky. The unit ends a call after 30 seconds of silence and is supposed to pick back up upon speaking loudly, but this feature is far from reliable. All in all, the BK-1 is a breakthrough for cyclists who want to catch up along the ride. This brainy idea should be a no-brainer for any pairs who ride together frequently.
$269.95 (one headset) or $469.95 (two headsets); cardosystems.com
Gear: Klymit Double Diamond Vest
While the cold weather is not quite upon us just yet, it’s not too far around the corner. Time to start thinking about insulation and staying warm during the winter. Add this unique little number to your wardrobe to provide an out-of-the-ordinary take on a common theme. Finding no better way of fighting the cold than going to the tropics, the designers of this vest procured their brave new perspective on cold-weather insulation while on a diving trip in Brazil. They observed deep water divers inflating their wetsuits with argon gas for insulation against the colder water temperatures. Just 2.5 mm thickness of argon provides roughly the same amount of insulation as 5 mm thickness of the average fiber insulation. And perhaps best of all, this argon can easily be added or removed with a valve. Cold fall storm blows in while you’re at the summit? No problem: just pull out a small pump and compressed argon container (argon is sold separately) and inflate. Too hot during your brisk hike down? Just let the argon out of a small vent on the chest to cool off. The flexibility of this jacket comes with a price, though: the material required to contain the gas must be beefy and weighs more than down or synthetic insulation. The medium vest weighs 14 ounces, which is more than many 650-fill, full-sleeved down jackets. Also, the potential for puncture exists. Still, it’s a much easier solution than putting on and taking off a layer of insulation from underneath your shell, and the insulation won’t compress as much as a down or synthetic fill, so it will retain its loft better. The four-way stretch fabric allows it to be worn over or under other layers more easily too.
$204.95; EMS, Manchester, Rutland, South Burlington
Beer: Hill Farmstead Brewery What Is Enlightenment?
What is enlightenment? It may be hard to describe in words, but brewer Shaun Hill may have found the answer in a beer. In honor of the second anniversary of a brewery in the far reaches of the Green Mountains (the Northeast Kingdom’s Greensboro), Hill produces another characteristically bright, hoppy beer. Concentrated Simcoe and Amarillo hops combine in a fine American pale ale with a hazy golden glow that conjures up strong citrus aroma and flavor. The result is one Vermont brewer’s take on a question posed by German philosopher Immanuel Kant in 1784. Want to know for yourself what enlightenment is? Better get yourself to Greensboro.