Summer PressCamp 2017, Part II

Summer PressCamp 2017, Part II

One of my favorite features of PressCamp is that I get to have conversations with people that might not occur otherwise. Case in point: Brad Waldron, the CEO of Kali Protectives. He’s busier than a blender set to liquify. That I have gotten to know him at all is a function of Kali being small and the fact that he and his staff chose PressCamp as part of their ongoing strategy to tell their story. And it really is a story.

With most brands this size, I’d never see the CEO. I’d get the marketing department’s crib notes on their technical story. Not that it would be inaccurate or that there would have necessarily been spin or Kool-Aid, but invariably product stories get simplified. Brad isn’t like that. He doesn’t do brief and he doesn’t do simplified. What he does do is obsessive. It makes him fascinating to people like me, though I suspect some of his staff have lost hair and sleep because of the way he is. It can’t be easy to work for a guy so obsessed with going his own way on making better protection.

That opening image is an enlarged version of of Kali’s LDL—Low Density Layer. Made from Armourgel, these pads reduce low-G impact forces by 12 percent and rotational impact forces by 25 percent. At some point I’m going to have to do a deep dive with Brad because when described in just a couple of sentences LDL sounds like a gimmick. Spend an hour with the guy and you wonder why Kali isn’t one of the biggest names in helmets.

Waldron’s central contention is that the impact forces that helmets are designed to deal with are so high—because they are meant to prevent death—that they are virtually useless in lower G impacts that are still strong enough to give the rider a concussion. He was deeply suspicious of MIPS, though he’s come around on that, but is adamant that LDL is part of the future of helmet design. Not only does it decrease impact forces in both low-G and rotational situations, the LDL pads make a helmet more comfortable to wear.

Above are two new helmets from Kali, the Alchemy and the Therapy. While they share the same basic design, the mountain version has been tooled to accept a visor, while the road version doesn’t suffer any extra unused holes. They feature Kali’s LDL pads as well as their Composite Fusion Technology which blends both high- and low-density foams to decrease trauma in sub-lethal impacts.

Cyclone Bicycle Supply is a Portland, Oregon-based distributor that carries far more cool lines than I ever knew. They are the official importers of Cinelli for the U.S. And it’s a relief to see that some things change just enough while other change not one whit. Take the legendary Cinelli Super Corsa. This is the bike we all lusted after in 1988. Or ’87. It’s still got a 1-inch, threaded steerer and it still comes in 11 sizes: from 50cm to 60cm in 1cm increments.

On some of the old Italian brands I’ve seen quality suffer as the shop masters have retired. Lugs don’t get the same treatment, paint lacks the same luster. However, the Super Corsa I saw was just as lust-worthy as the first one I saw all those years ago.

But some things should evolve, right? If ever there was a cool frame aching for a reboot, it was the much-coveted Cinelli Laser. Now made from carbon fiber, the frame weighs half what it once did and is arguably better-made and better performing today. My favorite part: It’s available in 15 sizes, all the way from 48 to 62 in 1cm increments. Pinch me now.

The resurgence in touring and the explosion in bike packing has really brought to some creative minds into the bag arena. Acepac is a line I only heard of late last year but their work is superb. The seat bag above is notable for the spray guard it has and the daisy chain of webbing. Whatever inside is likely to stay dry and the webbing means you will always have a way to carry more gear.

Acepac’s fuel bags are very well designed and the double-zipper opening means that it is easy to access anything held within, but it closes with just a single tug. Mesh side pockets are great for empty wrappers so that you’re not that rider.

As with Acepac, I’ve heard a bit about the English light brand Exposure, but this was my first chance to see their stuff. In a word, holy cow. Okay, two words. Their technology, which includes features like brightening or dimming depending on whether the light is pointed up or down, is creative and practical. They aluminum casings seem all but bullet-proof. Burn times are impressive and some of the lights are bright enough you could use them as substitutes for a BMW headlight. Srsly.

This is the first brand of lights that seem more feature-laden offer more lumens per dollar than Lezyne’s. I’m not sure if I’m going to get the chance to review any Exposure lights, but even if I do, I’ve seen enough to be able to say that if you’re considering lights for any usage at all, this company needs to be on your list of finalists.

Camelbak showed a bunch of small tweaks to their hydration packs, plus new colorways. Most of the changes were not groundbreaking, but with some of the packs they have incorporated CE-certified back pads.

Years ago a buddy of mine when over the handlebar of his unsuspended, 26-inch wheeled mountain bike with a 130mm stem. Looking back it was little wonder. The thing is, he landed on a blade of granite sticking up out of the New England soil. He was wearing that very first Camelbak—the one that was uglier than a prize-winning Mastiff. He popped the bladder and soaked his back, but he didn’t complain. To this day he swears that pack saved his back if not his life. I watched him go down and it’s hard to argue. So when I saw the protectors above, no one needed to sell me on their utility. Their dimensions depend on just which pack you purchase, but they are broad enough and long enough to proved excellent protection for your spine. And that’s what’s next most important after your head, amiright? Ribs? Pfft.

Camelbak has introduced a new top for their Podium bottles so that on muddy or dusty rides you can take in fluid rather than dirt and grime. It’s possible to pop the top off with one hand if you brace the bottle against your body. 

I was presented a new pack, the Chase Bike Vest, which Yuri Hauswald helped to develop. I saw it in action at Dirty Kanza and wondered what was up. I’ve got a single use of the device in and will be reviewing it soon. It’s intriguing because it keeps so much readily at hand without interfering with jersey pockets. Makes perfect sense for gravel events or mountain bike races where eating can be a challenge. Stay tuned.

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  1. Harris

    Had my eye on the Supercorsa for a few years, torn between it and a Master X-light. Probably won’t wind up with either, but man, what classics.

  2. Pat O'Brien

    Lugged steel or carbon Cinelli frame would be an interesting choice to make. My first question would be where are they made.

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