Waking up to a crisp October morning on Lake Tahoe, 420 miles of riding from San Francisco.

Waking up to a crisp October morning on Lake Tahoe, 420 miles of riding from San Francisco.​

The Lowdown: Four essential items for a 420-mile ride

Last October, two friends and I embarked on a 420-mile, seven-day mountain bike adventure from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco riding as much singletrack as possible. We called it The Commute, and along the route we encountered brutally steep hike-a-bikes, sub-freezing temperatures, and a couple downpours of rain. Our mission was to travel light and stay with friends instead of camp so we could carry as little gear as possible. In order to accomplish this, we needed the essentials to keep us warm, comfortable and dry. Here are reviews of four items from Giro, Mountain Hardwear and Acre Supply that were essential in successfully and comfortably completing the journey.

Comfortable and flexible with plenty of grip - Giro Terraduros worked great.

Comfortable and flexible with plenty of grip - the Giro Terraduros worked great.​

Features: Vibram high-traction outsoleSizes: EU 39-50
Materials: Breathable microfiber upperWeight: 420 grams (size 42.5)
Straping: 2 Velcro straps, 1 MR-2 ratcheting buckleMSRP: $180
Footbed: Molded EVA with anti-microbial treatmentRating:
4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4 Chilies-out-of-5
Colors: Black, glowing red/black
Stat Box: Giro Terraduro Shoes


Pluses

Minuses
  • Balance of pedaling stiffness and walking flexibility
  • Outsole started delaminating after a week of use
  • Outstanding comfort for all-day adventures
  • Terrific traction
  • Stylish

The Hauser easily accommodated all our gear for seven days of riding.

The Hauser easily accommodated all our gear for seven days of riding.​

Features: Four pockets, ventilated back panelMade in: USA
Materials: Nylon ripstop outer/linerWeight: 10L: 1060 grams, 14L: 1100 grams
Capacity: 10L or 14LMSRP: $195-$205
Hydration Capacity: 3 litersRating:
4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4 Chilies-out-of-5
Colors: Black, Navy, Gray, Camo
Stat Box: Acre Supply Hauser Pack


Pluses

Minuses
  • Weatherproof
  • Rolltop closure can hit back of helmet
  • Numerous strap adjustments for great fit
  • Zippers can be stubborn when pack is full
  • Efficient Packer
  • Well ventilated for breathability
  • Handy toolbag keeps small items organized
  • Extra straps for pads or helmet

At under eight ounces, the Ghost Whisperer from Mountain Hardwear is the lightest full feature down jacket made.

At under eight ounces, the Ghost Whisperer from Mountain Hardwear is the lightest full feature down jacket made.​

Features: Warm even when wet, waistband cordMade in: China
Materials: Nylon outer, down insulationSizes: S-XXL
Weight: 7.2 ouncesMSRP: $320
Fit: ActiveRating:
5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
5 Chilies-out-of-5
Colors: Green, Orange
Stat Box: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket


Pluses

Minuses
  • Super light full-featured down jacket
  • Exterior fabric susceptible to tearing
  • Resists moisture and dries quickly
  • Expensive
  • Warm
  • Packable into jersey pocket
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Doing double duty as a nice dress jacket or a backcountry rain jacket, the Giro Neo is extremely versatile.

Doing double duty as a nice dress jacket or a backcountry rain jacket, the Giro Neo is extremely versatile.​

Features: Gear pocket, taped seams, offset zipperSizes: S-XXL
Materials: 115g/m2 Polartec NeoshellColors: Black, Orange
Fit: ActiveMSRP: $350
Made in: ChinaRating:
5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
5 Chilies-out-of-5
Stat Box: Giro Neo Rain Jacket


Pluses

Minuses
  • Tailored fit
  • Expensive
  • Stylish for off-bike wear
  • Moisture blocking neck, sleeve and waistbands
  • Waterproof and breathable
  • Huge rear pocket
  • Offset zipper

Continue to page 2 to read full reviews of the Giro Terraduro shoes, Acre The Supply Hauser pack, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket and the Giro Neo Rain jacket »</a>



Comfortable and flexible with plenty of grip - Giro Terraduros worked great.

Comfortable and flexible with plenty of grip - the Giro Terraduros worked great.​

Full Review: Giro Terraduro Shoes

Wise mountain bikers know that one never races or does long rides in a brand new pair of shoes. Kicks that aren't properly broken in can create all manner of foot problems. Of course I neglected that sage advice and slipped on a brand new pair of Giro Terraduro shoes the day before we embarked on The Commute.

The Terraduros provided ample traction and flex for big hike-a-bike sections.

The Terraduros provided ample traction and flex for hike-a-bike sections.​

As a testament to how comfortable the Terraduros are, not once in that seven-day ride did I suffer a blister, hot spot or any other kind of foot discomfort. Additionally, the agreeably flexible plastic midsole and grippy Vibram outsole were quite welcome on the numerous hike-a-bike sessions encountered on Western States Trail. A nice stout toebox also protected my toes after kicking numerous rocks.

Consumers nowadays get so caught up in their obsession for carbon fiber, especially with shoes. The Terraduros are a perfect example of why a plastic midsole is so much better for everyday riding. Unless you're a hardcore XC racer, the stiffness of carbon fiber is overkill. The Terraduros provide a balance of on-bike pedaling stiffness and off-bike walking flexibility with generous traction for scrambling over rocks - and cost about half of what some carbon kicks run. And at 420 grams (size 42), they're respectably light.

erraduros feature great fit out of the box that didn't even need a break-in period.

Terraduros feature great fit out of the box that didn't need a break-in period.​

The only niggle I have with the Terraduros is a delamination issue that's happening on the front-inside part of the shoe near the ball of my foot. It's nothing that a liberal application of Shoe-Goo can't solve, but after only a week of use, it was a little disheartening to see the tread already separating from the upper. Despite that issue, the fact remains - the Terraduros were as comfortable off the shelf as a perfectly worn-in pair of kicks, and to me that speaks volumes for their fit.

For more information visit www.giro.com.

Continue to page 3 to read the full review of the Acre Supply The Hauser pack »</a>>



The Hauser easily accommodated all our gear for seven days of riding.

The Hauser accommodated all our gear for seven days of riding.​

Full Review: Acre Supply The Hauser Pack

Usually, I am not one for backpacks or hydration packs while riding, and the concept of having to ride a singlespeed 420 miles with a pack was disagreeable to say the least. But if I wanted to keep up on downhills with my ride partners I couldn't run frame bags, so I begrudgingly loaded up an Acre Supply Hauser Pack.

The Hauser provided comfortable fit that didn't restrict maneuvering.

The Hauser provided comfortable fit that didn't restrict movement.​

Acre Supply The Hauser
 
Made in America with water resistant construction, The Hauser from Acre Supply was an essential piece of gear.
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Although satellites could pick up the Caltrans Orange motif on my pack from orbit, after a day of riding, the Hauser seemed to disappear on my back. Thanks to a perforated back panel and shoulder straps, there was adequate ventilation, and with multiple anchor points, both the shoulder straps and waist belt allowed quick adjustment. Although I didn't run a hydration bladder, the Hauser can accommodate most brand name reservoirs up to 3 liters.

The Hauser also features a handy removable tool roll to keep little bits and pieces organized, and hidden carry straps can store a helmet or pads underneath the bag. I used the straps to carry an extra pair of shoes. The main cargo compartment has a roll-top closure to adjust higher or lower depending on how much gear is being carried. To keep the back from hitting the back of my head, I had to make sure the roll-top was rolled as low and tight as possible.

Acre Supply claims the Hauser is fully weatherproof, and we got to test that claim at the end of the second day riding through a complete downpour. Not only did all my gear in the main roll-top compartment stay dry, but my phone in one of the outer pockets did as well. Although I avoid packs whenever possible, the Hauser was an essential piece of gear for The Commute that worked out great. It comes in two sizes (10L and 14L).

For more information visit acre-supply.com.

Continue to page 4 to read the full review of the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down jacket »</a>



At under eight ounces, the Ghost Whisperer from Mountain Hardwear is the lightest full feature down jacket made.

At under eight ounces, the Ghost Whisperer from Mountain Hardwear is exceptionally light.​

Full Review: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket

I couldn't believe how damn light the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer was when I first picked it up. At less than eight-ounces, the Ghost Whisperer is claimed to be the world's lightest full-feature down jacket. And with Q.Shield 850 fill down, the Ghost Whisperer also happens to be the warmest down jacket I've ever worn. This jacket packs down ridiculously small. So small, in fact, that it can actually fit into a traditional cycling jersey pocket.

The Ghost Whisperer packs down small enough to fit into a jersey pocket.

The Ghost Whisperer packs down small enough to fit into a jersey pocket.​

Not only did I wear the Ghost Whisperer after wrapping up a relentless nine-hour-plus day on the bike for an entire week straight, but much to my girlfriend's chagrin (who works at Patagonia), it's also about the only damn jacket I've worn all winter.

After The Commute I wore the Ghost Whisperer as a layer during a snowmobiling trip. After spending 20 minutes digging myself out of a giant hole, the Ghost Whisperer was drenched in sweat. With the down all matted up, I thought the jacket was done for. But much to my surprise, after hanging it out to dry for a couple hours, the jacket was a good as new. How Mountain Hardwear was able to construct something so light yet so warm is absolutely mind-boggling. This jacket simply rules, it's an essential piece of warm weather gear for any bikepacker.

For more information visit www.mountainhardwear.com.

Continue to page 5 to read the full review of the Giro Neo Rain jacket »</a>



Doing double duty as a nice dress jacket or a backcountry rain jacket, the Giro Neo is extremely versatile.

Doing double duty as a dress jacket or backcountry rain jacket, the Giro Neo is extremely versatile.​

Full Review: Giro Neo Rain Jacket

For me, versatility in clothing is priority No. 1. If someone can design a jacket that looks great going out to a nice dinner and can also double as a functional piece of gear for backcountry riding, then I'm all for it - even if the cost is high. This is exactly what the Giro Neo Rain Jacket is. At $350, it definitely isn't a bargain garment, but time and again it's the jacket I reach for.

Constructed from Polartec Neoshell fabric, the Neo Rain Jacket delivers outstanding breathability, ventilation, and yes, water resistance - something I discovered firsthand during a downpour. A giant back pocket lets you store a lot of riding gear including spare tubes and even a wind vest. The neck, sleeves and waistband all have a slightly grippy treatment to help keep unwanted moisture out, and the zipper is offset for more comfortable fit.

The Neo is a premium quality rain jacket with a wide range of uses.

The Neo is a premium quality rain jacket with a wide range of uses.​

The Neo Rain Jacket along with the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down jacket and a Smart Wool long sleeve base layer was all the upper clothing I needed to get by on seven days of riding, even when lounging around in freezing temperatures. All three items pack down small while providing outstanding heat insulation. Four months after The Commute, whenever I pack a bag for an overnight trip, I bring the Neo and the Ghost Whisperer with me. They've become essential pieces of ride and post-ride clothing.

For more information visit www.giro.com.