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In the Drops: Chrome shoes, Demon tamper, Bubblehead coffee, Fr3nd shirt and Effetto Mariposa cleaners

James Spender
14 Jan 2022

This week's round up of the cool and the practical and caffeine orientated

Jambo! That’s Swahili for ‘Spanish ham’. Ha! I jest. It’s Swahili for hello! Quite the best greeting in any language, and thus only fitting for the Queen stage of our weekly Tour, Friday. It’s Friday. Welcome to Friday. Isn’t she a joy?

OK, maybe not if you work in hospitality or hospital A&E – they both get busy Friday nights, and unsurprisingly there is a link. But for us weekworking lifers, today is a great day. So to celebrate, let's take a look at some wonderful little products I have been testing and liking muchly.

First of all though, let's do some highlights. The biggest (and most disappointing) news of the week was that Mark Cavendish more than likely won't be at this year's Tour de France and we've also updated our comprehensive list of pro rider transfers for 2021-2022.

On the bike front, the Look 765 Gravel and Merida Reacto 4000 earned plaudits, while we put Wahoo's richly featured SYSTM training app to the test as well as the not-a-lock AlterLock alarm and bike tracker.

On with the swag.

Chrome Industries Dima 3.0 Slip-Ons

I love a pair of slip-ons. Great for, well, slipping on. 'Cos laces, I mean, tying bits of string by hand? There are robots for that kind of thing (probably, somewhere in Japan).

And these cycling-specific slip-ons from Chrome Industries are superb – with special mention going to their soles, which has been made in conjunction with tyre manufacturer, Panaracer.

As slip-ons go the Dima 3.0s do what they promise, the elasticated entry yawns open obligingly then fits snugly round the foot, and the insoles are properly ergonomically shaped to hold feet in place, as opposed to some slip-on shoes that are more like wearing tiny school sports halls on your feet that the equally tiny caretaker has just polished with that massive spinny polisher thing with the mind-bogglingly long flex.

Those insoles are cushioned too, with a little extra cushioned chunk of rubber buried in the sole’s heel. However, these are shoes made for cycling, so a stiffer nylon plate runs the length of the mid-sole, which helps pedalling immensely, offering a noticeably more solid interaction with the pedal than a regular trainer.

Said soles are made with vulcanised rubber from Panaracer, they of the very successful GravelKing tyre, amongst many others. They're grippy and hardwearing, and happily, like all tyres and shoes should be, tan-walled (although the Dimas are also available in black. I said non-marking shoes in the sports hall only.

Demon Frameworks Stainless Steel Tamper

This isn’t one for everybody I grant you, so if you don’t make coffee on a home espresso machine I shall not be offended if you look away now. But if you do, then Demon Frameworks’ tamper might just be about the best tamper you could wish for.

Usually concerned with making exquisite steel bike frames, Demon’s Tom Warmerdam turned his lathe to making coffee tampers, and the result is a tamper finely milled to within .1 of a millimetre – sizes are available in that level of gradation.

This is a 58.4mm and it fits my E61 group’s 58mm portafilter perfectly (since portafilter baskets are made to the nearest millimetre). Although if you order one I’d suggest measuring you basket first with a Vernier caliper as baskets differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

 

All tampers are machined from a solid block of stainless steel and weigh around a kilo, which might feel a bit much but which I find means I can get accurate tamping as the weight takes care of a lot of the work.

It’s really helped sort out some channelling issues I was having, so much so that this won’t be returned. I bought it. It’s that good. 

Bubblehead Barista home delivery coffee

While we’re on the coffee, and I’ll keep this one short – beans. Demon Frameworks is based on Southampton, which makes buying a tamper from Tom something along the lines of supporting local business – I live in London but I’m a Pompey lad [I'm told this means Portsmouth – Ed]. So while we’re on that note, here is some choice coffee from Bubblehead Barista, which roasts its own beans a few clicks up the road in Alresford on the edge of the South Downs.

I don’t profess to be a cupping connoisseur, but I’ve tried a lot of coffee and I like what I know and I know what I like, and these beans tend to be on my taste spectrum – medium roasted towards the sweet, nutty end, which I find makes for good flat whites and decent espressos.

Bubblehead offers single origin coffees on a changing basis plus house blends, and will ship to anywhere in the UK.

Fr3nd Merino shirts

Fr3nd is a brand new commuter/lifestyle brand, and it’s USP beyond fashion and function is sustainability. All Fr3nd garments are made from ‘natural fabrics’, with the major material being merino wool.

The idea is merino lasts a long time, is naturally antimicrobial, and when they eventually have seen their best days, garments will, says Fr3nd, ‘degrade in months rather than decades like synthetics.’

If you think merino sounds, well, a bit ‘thick’ for cycling shirts, then you’re not alone, I did too.

But the man behind Fr3nd, Stuart Brooke, has a long history working with merino wool for cycling apparel, having founded Ashmei, which has long since done a roaring trade in racy merino jerseys.

Using that same knowhow and contacts – yarn comes from Italy, fabrication happens in Portugal –  Fr3nd has managed to produce shirts that are light weight and really silky soft. The Merino Polo Shirt in particular (£78) feels like it’s made out of kitten hugs, and since the weave is naturally stretchy, the fit huggily form-fitting too.

The Merino Wool Shirt (£130) is similarly pliable if less brushed, but that’s a good thing, as it stays crisp – it’s officially ‘non-iron’. The cut is fitted but not too slim, which suits me just fine, although being entirely subjective I don’t like to hide my buttons away, but I know others will see this sort of tunic look as oh-so-clean.

I’ve worn both out and about on rides and can vouch for the way they cope with sweaty stinkers like myself – the polo shirt specifically doesn't seem to need as much washing as a regular tee, or indeed a jersey. I’ve yet to bury either in the ground to measure their degrading abilities though. I like them too much for that. 

  • From £78
  • Buy now from Fr3nd

Effetto Mariposa bike cleaning products

I love a new chain-cleaning device, mainly because no-one has invented a chain-cleaning device cleaning device, which means after a while, despite my best efforts, the things become more grease distributing than removing.

But Effetto Mariposa’s Mangiacatena is not only brilliantly named – it means ‘chain eater’ in Italian, but it scrubs chains brilliantly and it can be fully dissected to clean the scrubby bits properly. And even better, when the little brushes have eventually cleaned one too many chains, a replacement kit costs £9.

The accompanying general cleaner and chain degreasers are decent too. Allpine Light costs £14 for a 1,000ml spray bottle, with one-litre refills £11; Allpine Extra costs £16 per 500ml.

Both do the job and don’t cost the earth, quite literally. They are said to be biodegradable and they even smell nice, if you like the Toilet Duck vibe – they aren’t called Allpine for nothing.

Rounding it off is Effetto Mariposa’s environmentally friendly Flowerpower chain wax (£12, 100ml, which is sunflower oil-based and though it doesn’t have any ‘I’m the most frictionless’ claims’, it runs smoothly and silently enough.

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