Mountain Warehouse Adrenaline Cycling Jacket – First Impressions

I think being contacted by Mountain Warehouse to review a couple of items of their clothing is a good omen. Since the email and offer of waterproofs, it has been conspicuously dry in the rainy Northwest. I hope this good fortune extends to my three-day backpack in Scotland next week.

Mountain Warehouse Adrenaline cycling jacketNorth of the border I’ll be using the company’s Brisk Extreme mountain jacket. For this ‘first impressions review’ I’m turning my attention to its Adrenaline cycle shell.

Mountain Warehouse has gained some prominence on the high street but, it’s fair to say, is not the first port of call for the function or fashion conscious outdoor enthusiast.

The company supplies own-brand product at very competitive prices. You won’t find much, if any, evidence of GoreTex of eVent swing tickets in its shops, and you may have to dig around for a more technical garment amid the cags-in-bags and clockwork torches. That said, and based on my extended use of the company’s ‘Shimano Merino top’, its more purposeful gear is well designed and durability is on a par with more recognisable manufacturers.

In common with many Mountain Warehouse shells, the Adrenaline is manufactured from IsoDry – this grade featuring a hydrostatic head of 3000mm and a moisture vapour transfer (MVT) rate of 3000g/24hrs/m2. The numbers don’t really register with me to be honest, suffice to say that the jacket is waterproof enough but breathability is not great when you consider the MVT of the better eVent waterproofs out there is 22,000g/24hr/m2 of . The jacket is relatively heavy, too, my size large pulling the kitchen scales down to 600g.

The killer statistic though is the price – the Adrenaline costs just shy of £35.

As for features, the shell has a waterproof zip, a zip chest pocket, zipped rear bumbag pocket, taped seams, adjustable cuffs, side zip vents, microfleece inner collar and zip garage, draw cords at the waist and neck and reflective detailing. An internal mesh liner helps with moisture management.

The jacket is made in China and finish is good.

As for fit, the jacket features reassuringly long arms, important on a shell designed for cycling. However, for me, the size large sent to me is far too big in the body, preferring a more athletic cut to my cycling gear.

A fortnight ago I eventually had a day worthy of testing the Adrenaline. The temperature was cool – 17 deg C – and rain persistent. I pedalled in the shell for three hours over a range of terrain including of couple of Pennine hills cloaked in clag.

In this poor visibility I was grateful of the reflective detailing, which showed up well in car headlights. The jacket resisted the rain admirably too. As always, I had my suspicions about the front zip, which lacks full double storm flap protection, but this kept the elements at bay even on a speedy and lengthy downhill section. More expensive jackets have yielded in these conditions.

Breathability was not so good. By the end of the ride, I had considerable moisture build up inside the jacket on the shoulders and sleeves even in these relatively cool conditions. The mesh liner makes way for a thin, solid material at the arms that may, in part, explain this. I had the vent zips open at all times during the ride and without them things might have become uncomfortable.

The Adrenaline performs pretty much as expected. In my view, this is a jacket for short commutes and leisure rides. For more demanding activity, the wearer will have to be mindful of venting the jacket to manage moisture and dress sensibly underneath. I wore a merino base with a merino perform cycling top and these helped overall comfort.

This shell will be more useful for commuting in winter when the loose fit will permit more layers underneath, even a synthetic insulated vest, and moisture management will be less of an issue. I’ll let you know how it performs.

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Surly ECR XXL four months on – Evading Clichéd Rides?

I’ve had my mahoosive Surly ECR since March.

In that time, it’s been on numerous trips over the trails near home, took part in a celebratory ride for the bike shop that supplied it (and was greeted with nods of approval from the Surly dudes), lugged bikepacking gear on an epic trip from Settle to home along the Pennine Bridleway and ferried me out for coffee on a hill when I just couldn’t take it any more.

Surly ECR in the Pennines

A sunny day on the trails. An ECR day.

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Cycle touring Morocco days 8 and 9 – Next stop: the Sahara (kind of) to Take Your Time

I was reluctant to leave the Palmeraie given another difficult night but I really wanted to get back o the road and salvage something from the final few days on the bike.

We decided to follow the main N9 route south, slowly. This was by no means an original or adventurous route but I still felt very weak, despite shaking off the fever. Pushing off and through the streets of Quazazate, my legs had no power. Tom seemed refreshed after a couple of days rest and powered ahead, pushing a big gear.

Heading south from Quazazate on the  N9

Heading south from Quazazate on the N9

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Cycle touring Morocco days six and seven – let the bad times roll

We found a restaurant with wifi in Quazazate and reconnected after our days in the mountains. Our pizzas were, in some respects, a welcome change from tagine but beer remained elusive.

SSkoura Morocco

Bike fettling at Skoura

We’d read there was a campsite on the edge of town and were keen to spend a night under canvas… well I was. I had this romantic notion of a quiet pitch amid palm groves with water boiling on my Honey Stove fuelled by a fistful dry bamboo.

This idea seemed all the more appealing given the choked urban tableau before us. As five pm approached and the heat of the day receded, the road before us reawakened accompanied by the all-too-familiar discord of Moroccan traffic.

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Cycle touring Morocco days four and five – Let’s get haute

Pedalling towards the foot of the Col du Tichka through the high Atlas was heaven after our night on the roof. The air was fresh and we travelled slowly, a fair distance apart, enjoying some personal time with the mountains.

We gazed down upon houses near Taddert sitting in a tightly hewn valley where the adobe-walled homes made economical use of dusty terraces. On the road, restaurant owners beckoned us to stop but we were full from our excellent entrée to the day.

We reached what looked to be the foot of the climb, ate oranges and discussed the toil ahead. The road snaked across a mountain wall ahead of us and much was hard to trace although occasionally the sun caught a car windscreen and the glint betrayed the precipitous lie of our route.

The start of the climb proper

The start of the climb proper

I felt animated by the climb… a childlike excitement felt on Christmas morning. Sure, I have plenty of climbs in the Pennines back home, but nothing compared to this: 20km of delightful suffering amid towering peaks to a summit pass of some 2,200 metres.

Stocking up with water again, we hit the hairpins and settled into our respective rhythms – my cadence fast as always, spinning my way slowly to the heavens. Drivers on the twisting mountain route were considerate in the main, and many were encouraging. Horns were honked, and clapping was accompanied by cries of ‘Allez Allez Allez!’

Lining the route were lookouts and the lookouts were lined with hawkers. I stopped to take in the scene… the road was a sinuous ribbon of tarmac clinging to the dusty slopes way below me. I just had time to take a photograph of sorts before the hard sell started. I was in no mood for haggling and pressed on to a thankfully deserted lay-by where I waited for Tom and searched for anything sugary in my panniers.  Continue reading

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Bowmore Small Batch Reserve – now for something a bit different

Forgive the brief departure from regaling you with more tales of derring-do in Morocco – it was just about to get really good too, particularly the part when I became really sick…

small batch

Bowmore Small Batch Reserve (Pic: Bowmore)

While I was away, those fine folk at Bowmore sent me a sample of their Small Batch Reserve to try alongside some chocolate goodies (more of the latter later).

I realise I‘ve been a little slack in my whisky tasting of late. This is partly because I‘ve been stuck in a very pleasurable rut drinking Talikser… lost in resonant memories of Skye and the West Coast while shutting out damp evenings in Mancunia.

The shipment from Bowmore was a welcome distraction then.

The Small Batch is in some ways a curious expression of this famous Islay tipple. For those familiar with more ‘regular’ Bowmores such the 12 year old, Darkest or the simply sublime 18 year old, this lighter dram may come as a disappointment.

Small Batch Reserve is matured in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks. This process imbues the younger spirit with a sweetness and creaminess that cuts quite a contrast to its peat smoked brethren.

So how does it fly?

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Cycle touring Morocco day three – Up on the roof

It must have been 2am when DJ FX and MC Yabba called it a night. I did manage to sleep during their extended mega-mix, but it was slumber filled with beats (international).

We both awoke with what campers will understand as ‘tent face’… hefty baggage under the eyes and frowns. Coffee needed, and lots of it please.

Our leisurely breakfast by the pool set a tone for the trip. There was an intention of sorts to start early and enjoy the best part of the day for riding, but our resolve weakened in the face of café au lait, juice, pancakes, pastries, bread and jam.

Eventually, the bikes were packed and we pushed off slowly into the foothills of the Atlas. It was already warm and I drank little-and-often from the bidon perched helpfully on my handlebars thanks to a £3 bracket I’d bought on a whim before departure.

The N9 followed lush farmland for much of the day

The N9 followed lush farmland for much of the day

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Cycle touring Morocco days one and two – surviving Marrakech before the ‘Yabba Yabba Yabba!’

A friend said that Marrakech would feel like Mos Eisley… The ‘wretched hive’ on the fictional desert planet Tatooine from Star Wars.

It is, perhaps, not such a fanciful comparison for those with a vivid imagination. Climb aboard a plane in Manchester drizzle and disembark three hours and change later into dry, desiccating heat and a city that never sleeps. Snake charmers, hawkers, hookers, hash peddlers line the main square and streets, but not a drink (or, sadly, a Womp Rat) in sight. Culture shock.

Tom gets the bike together

Tom gets the bike together

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Maroc and roll

So, back from Morocco… This journey can be summarised thus:

I didn’t camp… at all

I got sick – very sick, actually – and passed out. This curtailed my plans quite severely

Crawled over a mountain pass when I should have been in bed

I didn’t get off the beaten track as much as I’d wanted

I took buses

Drank eight litres of water a day… or should have done

I ate too much tagine and became sick of it

BUT…

I enjoyed some of the most amazing riding I have ever experienced

Met some warm, courteous and helpful people

Shook people’s hands and touched my heart

Drank date ‘whisky’ (read: moonshine)

Played some drums and jammed

Slept on a roof

Raced local kids

Rolled out my best Huddersfield accent in a moment’s weakness

Laughed… a lot

Watched Premiership football in a local shop

Drank some excellent Moroccan red wine in a rooftop bar

Had the best company.

… stories and photos to come.

Surly Troll in Morocco

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Ready, set… Morocco

The weekend saw me clocking up some miles on the Troll ahead of flying to Morocco tomorrow.

The bike is in fine fettle. Now sporting some bigger boots in the shape of some increasingly rare folding Schwalbe Marathon Extremes 2.25″, the ride has softened appreciably which will help if we do venture off road. The mudguards have been removed for this trip, primarily to easing packing in my Evoc bike bag. However, in contrast to UK riding, I don’t think this act will have any negative effect on the weather. I expect it to be dry and, at times, pretty durn hot.

Surly Troll 'stripped down' for Morocco

Surly Troll ‘stripped down’ for Morocco

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