By Cid Cardoso, Jr.

Last month, I wrote about two interesting products that I consider not essential but nice to have. The following are two more examples that I’ve come across lately.

XLab Mini Cage Pod: $9.99

Back in the early 1990s we would cut off an old water bottle a couple of inches from the top to use the remaining “cup” as a storage unit. We would place inside this cup CO2 cartridges, tire levers and spare tube, along with a couple of dollars and a Powerbar, and then we would close the top with duct tape and stick the stubby cylinder in one of our cages. Twenty years later, XLab offers a much sleeker version of this contraption, the XLab Mini Cage Pod. Specialized offers a virtually identical item called the KEG, but since I was introduced to the Pod first, that’s the one I’m reviewing.

The body of the Pod is about half the size of a conventional 24-ounce water bottle and is made of high-density poly propylene material for durability. The wide mouth is securely capped by a wide screw cap (which works better than duct tape), creating a volume of 500 milliliters, which is enough to carry all the items mentioned above and then some. It is waterproof and fairly light, weighing just over 50 grams. It fits virtually all cages, although XLab recommends using it with one of its own branded cages, or those with a top hook to secure it in place and avoid launching it, especially if placed behind the saddle.

As mentioned earlier, I found a use for such a product early in my riding career. The XLab Mini Cage Pod offers a convenient and clean way to carry items necessary for self-sufficiency on the bike. It is also quite roomy – more so than most saddle bags I’ve owned and much easier to get items in and out of. The micro-fleece bag included with the Pod is also a nice touch; it keeps stuff together and kind of protects them and, more importantly, prevents items from rattling.

The only problem I’ve encountered with the Pod is that it takes away the ability to carry a water bottle. Usually, that is not an issue for me since I have room for three on my bike. However, as we get into summer, the 90-degree temperatures with lots of humidity tend to require more liquids, and that means carrying more bottles if I don’t want to stop every couple of hours. For those days, an X Nut with CO2s attached and a tube tucked or taped somewhere may still be the best option. Or you can simply take the micro-fleece bag out of the Pod and stick it inside a jersey pocket when all the cages are being used by water bottles.

Soda Car Seat Cover (Soaked Or Dirty Athlete)


The Soda Car Seat Cover protects the upholstery in your car from stains, odors and moisture while transporting wet and dirty creatures (athletes or pets). The story behind the creation of this product is a familiar one: Mom takes her son home from a soccer game during a North Carolina summer, and later sits on the same car seat dressed up for dinner only to find that her bottom and back are wet and stinky. The entrepreneurial mom then develops a cover that is easy to install and remove, and that can be washed and used repeatedly.

Most of us who live and work out in hot weather have had the same experience. I suspect that most do as I’ve done for years … bring towels to sit on. However, most of us have also come to adjust the number of towels needed to the time of the year and length of the workout: Short bike ride in March, one towel will do. Long run in July, bring three towels or don’t sit on that seat for a few hours.

I found the Soda Car Seat Cover to be as easy to install as they claim, taking no more than 20 seconds to secure it in place. The Velcro slit that fits around a headrest and secures it in place is a clever and simple solution to the towel sliding down the seat during driving. Removing it is just as simple and quick. It works on pretty much any car seat that has a headrest. Just as important, it worked as advertised to protect the seats against moisture and dirt. The thick towel-like soft-top layer absorbed the moisture and kept the seat comfort while the nylon-like bottom layer prevented the moisture from soaking through. This material is called PUL (poly urethane laminate) and the makers of the Soda Car Seat Cover claim that it’s completely waterproof. I actually expected the bottom layer to be more rubber like but so far this PUL layer has protected my seat adequately. We’ll see during the coming 90-plus-degree days. Throwing it in the washing machine with other color apparel and tumble drying it were also critical convenience characteristics to me.

Note that even though the Soda Car Seat Cover does not necessarily need to be washed after every use, it will take a little time to dry when sat on by a heavy sweater. The manufacturer’s recommendation is to wash as often as the user feels necessary. I would imagine that even though washing every day can be a little bit of a pain for those of us who work out on a daily basis, doing so will help prevent caked dirt from accumulating and odor from setting in. At $29, it’s a little more than the cost of a towel but not expensive by any means. I know my wife is happy that I’m no longer stinking up our beach towels.

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Cid Cardoso, Jr., owner of Inside Out Sports, has been doing triathlons for more than 20 years. In October 2011, he competed in his 26th Ironman – his eighth appearance at Kona. A veteran of ultramarathons, he has competed in Team RAAM twice. He has seen equipment evolve with the sport and continues to test new products to assess their impact on performance. He trains, works, and resides in Cary with his wife, two daughters, and son. You can reach him at