Long-term updates of the pandemic reviews, 2020 & 2021

Over the past pandemic-infested couple of years, I bought a number of items which I wanted to test and review, but was prevented from doing so properly due to lockdown, quarantine, and just general movement restrictions. Lately, things have improved and loosened a bit, and I’m now able to resume normal programming somewhat, so I figured now would be a good time to revisit these products.


I ordered this online from REI, hoping it would arrive in time for my plan to challenge the 200 km Subic-Masinloc-Subic audax in late March 2020. Not only did the audax ride not push through, this thing also got stuck in cargo forwarding limbo for months. It was a minor miracle it finally arrived at my door, to be honest.

With outdoor riding out of the question for most of 2020, I mainly used the Mag-Tank as a “bento box” feed bag while on longer rides on the indoor trainer. That was a legitimately half-baked testing situation, as I couldn’t find out how water-resistant the bag was in case you got caught in a sudden downpour. I also couldn’t test if that fancy magnetic-clasped top flap would catch rushing air from the front of your handlebars and open involuntarily.

After some saddle time outdoors, some of it in the rain, I can confirm that both items are non-concerns. The Mag-Tank is never gonna get any water ingress unless you deliberately ride around with the flap open, and the flap is secure enough to keep closed even at higher speeds and situations with greater incoming air velocity.

The only caveat with Revelate Design’s product is how the top tube strap’s rubbery material will leave marks on your top tube’s paint. The white “TCX” letters emblazoned on my top tube now have little brown dots corresponding to the pattern on the Mag-Tank’s top tube strap, and they are never gonna go away unless I have Hyro’s frame repainted. If you want this bag, but don’t feel like staining your frame’s paint job, do wrap your top tube with some clear frame protection.

I hardly ever ride without it, these days. Highly recommended, and well worth the price.


I had always planned on getting a second wheelset built up for Hyro, with a pair of Shimano’s discontinued-but-brand-new CX75 hubs burning a hole in my parts bin for years now. Lacing those into something rideable would require rims, spokes, and a great wheel builder from Tryon in Makati, which unfortuantely was inundated with bike maintenance jobs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I spotted and eventually bought this wheelset second-hand for a very attractive price. Since then, this has become my go-to for outdoor riding. It came with axle parts for the Novatec hubs to convert between through-axle and quick-release fitment, which was the first thing I did. This switchable nature is a great bit of future-proofing should I get a newer frame in the coming years. It doesn’t hurt that H Plus Son’s The Hydra rims are tubeless-ready, too, although they predate the ETRTO/ISO tubeless standard by three or four years.

There isn’t a huge weight saving over Hyro’s stock Giant S-X2s, mainly because these wheels have 32 spokes instead of the 28 on the stock set. Even so, they’re a useful ~300 g lighter, and the Novatec freehub is quite a bit noisier than the Joytech unit Giant uses, without becoming annoying. They don’t feel too different to ride from the heavier S-X2s, but they do look quite a bit fancier and roll on cartridge bearings instead of the cup-and-cone arrangement. All credit to Gran Trail Cycles Makati’s wheel builders too as these have stayed true and kept their spoke tension well.

Some of the black anodizing and white letter decals have gotten dinged from hanging off my wall in storage, but overall this was a good buy. In the future, I might even be inclined to finally bite the bullet and go tubeless with these, just for funzies.

And yes, those CX75 hubs are still in storage.


After one too many problems with Shimano’s pedals working themselves out of good preload adjustment, I went with their French rival’s offering. While Look is an established player in road cycling clipless pedals, they’re not as successful on the mountain bike side, and they made their X-Track pedal lineup compatible with Shimano SPD cleats.

The one downside to the X-Tracks is the tension adjustment of the clipless mechanism. Unlike Shimano’s adjustment bolt, which stops your 3 mm hex key at defined detents, Look’s adjustment is harder to dial in correctly if you don’t pay close attention. I spent quite a lot of trial and error here. There are detents, but they’re so soft, they might as well not exist.

Otherwise, it’s been all very, very good, even with this cheapest model in the lineup. The rotating assembly uses a bushing and two cartridge bearings, meaning there is no preload adjustment to faff about. Despite less physical size, the actual pedal platform that meets the sole of your shoe is noticeably bigger than any Shimano SPD pedal I’ve tried, and the foot support on these feels the closest to a road bike pedal in my experience.

They just work well – and Look’s own bundled X-Track cleats aren’t too shabby, either. Highly recommended.


Along with the Wahoo KICKR SNAP smart trainer, this thing has been transformative. Not only is this one of the most affordable power meter options on the market, it’s also very well reviewed and offers great accuracy down to +/-1%. Setup and maintenance are equally easy and hassle-free, requiring only the occasional zero offset and battery swap, and 4iiii’s companion app couldn’t be simpler to use. Battery life has been quite good: since receiving the power meter at the end of March, I’ve burned through one CR2032 button cell and I’m now halfway through a second.

Of course, it isn’t perfect. It will only ever measure power generated by a rider’s left leg, so it’s never going to offer left leg/right leg power balance. As an entry-level power meter, though, especially in this Shimano 105 R7000 crank arm guise, it’s cheap enough for its shortcomings to not matter very much at all.

Speaking of which…


This was the final piece of the 11-speed drivetrain upgrade on Hyro, arriving a whole two and a half years after everything else.

In hindsight, I should have upgraded sooner. The R7000 crank does work better with the peculiarities of disc-braked road bikes, its chainline sitting a smidge more outboard compared to older Shimano cranks, and that means it partners with modern 11-speed front derailleurs better and gives crisper shifting. You can still drop chains if you’re not careful, but those mishaps are fewer and farther between.

Even though I consider this the best crankset Shimano makes (I have no love for the lighter, but more flawed two-piece bonded construction of Ultegra and Dura-Ace cranks), five months on, I am still at odds with how it looks. Admittedly, road cycling is a sport that glamorizes vanity as much as it glorifies suffering. Older cranks with five-arm crank spiders have a classic, much more timeless appearance to them. Shimano seems to have thrown all that out the window with 105 R7000 in favor of better rigidity and power transfer.

Somehow I’ve avoided unintended rubbing of my shoes on this thing, which is nice – it lets it avoid getting uglier than it already is.

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