Winter PressCamp shifted focus for this edition into an all-road event. Road was defined a little broadly, perhaps with air quotes, so that it included adventure-riding bikes and gear. Which is why Niner’s presence may or may not surprise you. I was able to see and ride the Niner RLT RDO (that breaks down as Road Less Traveled, Race-Day Only). But I’ll get to that in a sec.
Giordana was on hand to show off their massively expanded custom line. Unlike most lines where your choices in jerseys are between long and short sleeves, and maybe raglan versus set-in, Giordana offers multiple price points (with commensurate adjustments in quality) as well as a broad array of products for virtually any climate.
Shown above are a traditional long-sleeve jersey (left), the short-sleeve Acqua+Vento jacket, a wind-front jacket and then at right a full thermal jacket. I’m unaware of anyone offering as diverse a collection in custom. Plus, they offer their own graphic designer and 10-piece minimums.
The line starts at the Vero, with a $90 (retail) jersey and $110 bibs. I’m told Giordana has worked hard to make sure that pricing works out well for clubs while balancing margin protection for retailers. While Vero is Giordana’s least expensive kit, it’s got a cam-lock zipper, grippers, a race cut and pricing that’s hard to argue with considering you get actual Italian construction.
Italy’s economy has suffered some instability, much the way ours has. Giordana elected to build their own factory—they own the factory; this isn’t just under contract—because there have been a stunning number of knowledgeable craftspeople displaced as production of high-quality apparel has moved out of Italy for points east. Armani’s loss, for instance, is Giordana’s gain.
Of the many collections that Giordana offers in custom, one of the sets really worth taking note of is G-Shield. For those looking for an alternative to Castelli’s Gabba and Nano pieces, G-Shield is Giordana’s answer. The line is built around thermal bibs, a thermal, short-sleeve jersey, and warmers: arm, leg and knee. Giordana has adopted a reflective technology that uses tiny glass beads for supercharged visibility. You can see it in the cuffs on both the jersey and the bibs. With this stuff, spring racing would never be the same.
And as the supplier to a number of pro teams, their apparel has been tested at the very highest echelons of the sport.
After being a little slow to keep pace with the developing trends in road tires, Kenda has come roaring back with some new designs. The Valkyrie Pro is an all new tire with a new casing and a new rubber formulation for terrific grip and reduced rolling resistance. It comes in four widths: 23, 25, 28 and even 30mm.
Kenda also introduced a new tire for adventure riding, the Flintridge Pro. It comes in two widths (35 and 40mm) and two different casings: TR, a lightweight one for rock-free race conditions and SCT, a heavier one for when you need to protect the sidewall from cuts, but also runs tubeless.
The name comes from the Flintridge Hills that have made Dirty Kanza the biggest gravel event going. I’ll be getting a set of the 40s with the SCT casing to review soon.
Given how good Niner’s carbon bikes are, I wondered why their first foray into road/gravel was an aluminum bike. Turns out that it was an elaborate case of “measure twice, cut once.” They wanted to make sure they had the design right before they cut tooling, which is why only now are they introducing the RLT RDO. Shod with 38mm Schwalbe G-Ones, the bike blended ephemeral mix of confidence at speed and yet low-speed maneuverability, which is the hallmark of a good adventure bike. I just wish I’d had a chance to ride the thing on some dirt. No matter. I’m going to need to do a full review on one soon.
Following the ride I had a chance to discuss the bike and it’s design. Niner went to great lengths to make sure that the RLT RDO would be easy to work on (I can speak to nightmare cable routing), so they included full guides for the housing along with this nifty window to ease working on the bike and give you a place to hide the junction box if you’re using Di2. It’s an impressive bike. The frameset goes for $2300 and complete builds start, amazingly, at only $3000.
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