Sony showed off a new video camera, the HDR-AS100V, called the Action Cam, to compete with a now burgeoning market for video. This unit features Zeiss optics for sharper video as well as a stereo mike and a waterproof casing to make it as directly competitive with the GoPro as possible while orienting the camera length-wise to make it less obtrusive and more aerodynamic. It’s big advantage is image stabilization software that makes on-the-bike video much easier to watch. They are offering a number of well-thought mounts as well. It goes for $269.
One of the handiest accessories for the Action Cam is this little wrist unit that allows you to see what the camera is shooting in real time. It’s most obvious use is to help you make sure the camera is aimed properly, whether it’s mounted to your helmet or handlebar, but it could be handy as well for anyone using a wand. It’s goes for an additional $100. Sony is offering two other models that aren’t quite as full-featured.
I’ve seen some surprising takes on what electric-assist units can do for rethinking bikes. The most creative new vision I’ve seen at the show (so far) is this hunting bike made for Jim Felt himself. So it’s a fat bike with Bosch’s assist, but with the added twist of a trailer carrying everything Jim needs for a hunting trip. For those who know Felt only as an engineer or motocross mechanic or triathlon visionary, these days Jim spends his free time in the Western Sierra hunting. That trailer not only has a bow and quiver of arrows, it’s got a tent, sleeping bag, clothes as well as cooking gear so that he can go out for days. For those who’ve hunted, a bike like this presents an intriguing opportunity to allow a hunter to get to places to remote to hike to in a weekend trip, while also offering land that a quad can’t get to. I grew up with people in Tennessee whose brains will go fizzy once they see this.
Shimano introduce some new enduro-oriented footwear, the SH-M200. The shoe features protection at the toe and ankle not found in Shimano’s current shoes and uses a low-profile buckle to help prevent the shoe from catching on rocks on brush when riding through tight spaces. The mid-foot tightens with a quick-draw lace that unfortunately didn’t leave enough room for my brick-shaped feet. People with a C to D width foot that isn’t too high volume will find this shoe comfortable.
The shoe’s most distinctive feature is that it includes a new line of technology called Torbal—torsional balance. The idea is that enduro (and trail) riders spend a lot of time twisting on the bike as they lean it left and right through tight turns. Torbal allows the sole of the shoe to twist so that riders don’t have to crank their ankles to throw the bike around. The sole is made from carbon-reinforced nylon for good stiffness and allows for the SPD cleat to be set up a centimeter closer to the middle of the foot than with other Shimano shoes as they think this is a shoe that might encourage some riders to move off flat pedals and into cleats for the first time. And when not clipped in the tread features three different density (and grip) materials, super sticky in the low-wear areas, a bit harder in higher-wear areas and firmest near where the pedal makes contact.
Of course, Shimano’s booth was buzzing with the first samples of the new XTR group. For those who tried the new mechanical group, they were wowed by significantly improved front shifting, but the mechanical group was completely eclipsed by the Di2 group and the possibilities that the synchro mode provided in programmable shifting.
The screen shows a variety of information, from batter life, to which gear and also which shift mode. The new Di2 can also be used to control suspension lockout, which is the readout to the far right.
That the crank is available in a single, a double and a triple chainring configuration says a lot about how riders still need very low gears for climbing. The shifting between chainrings is surprisingly fast, light and crisp, even with mechanical.
That Shimano was able to fit both the shifter mechanism and the master cylinder into a lever body that isn’t much larger than anything else available is really impressive. The ergonomics of the lever are terrific and the braking felt good, in the bike stand, but I didn’t get a chance to ride it.
Shimano also showed off a new road shoe, the R321. It features some significant changes from the R320. The first, biggest change is the way the sole provides increased support for the rider at the arch and is moldable thanks to Dynalast technology. Another change is how the buckle anchors at the bottom of the shoe and the ratchet enters up at the tongue for a more adaptable fit.
The second notable difference is that the black material on the right side of the left shoe (and left side of the right shoe) is moldable to provide a more confident fit. The sole is rated to a stiffness of 12 on a 12 scale. The cleat inserts in the sole can be moved to provide an additional centimeter of fore-aft adjustment. It runs from 38 to 47 in half size increments, plus a 48. Suggested retail is $380.