I get a lot of press releases. Most require no reading. However, the press release announcing a left-handed bicycle was so mirth-inducing as to elicit giggles from me even as I was making my peanut butter sandwich for lunch. When a press release for a product I don’t actually want stays with me that long, well I have to think about why.
Then I thought about the date, so I clicked on the link. Nothing happened. I don’t know if this is a joke or not, but I figured, why should I decide? I’ll let you all be the judge on this.
Here’s the text that was included:
Bicycles and headlights have had a relationship as fraught with unhappiness as Liz Taylor and each of her last 14 or 15 husbands. Cyclists have suffered weak lights with no staying power but were easily mounted, weak lights with plenty of staying power that were difficult to mount, powerful lights that had no staying power but were difficult to mount and occasionally powerful lights with great staying power that took forever to mount and ate up a bottle cage and weighed more than a regulation bowling ball.
As a set of choices, they all left plenty to be desired.
I don’t mind admitting that my core philosophy states that if the sun is not yet up or has gone down for the day, I need to be off the bike. Call that a bias if you like, but I couch it terms of self-preservation because if something doesn’t get me in the dark on the road, I still have plenty to fear when my wife looks at me and asks (in her most disdainful tone), “You were riding where? When?
But riding at the margins of the day, when I’m least likely to be missed means that this time of year, it’s a good idea to have some lights to try to notify less than fully awake drivers that I, too, am on the road and would like to survive the experience. A guy can dream, right?
What I learned some years ago was that the darker it is, the less powerful the light needs to be to illuminate your way. I was working on a light buyer’s guide with co-workers and found that the lights that didn’t seem to be on at dusk were pretty effective at midnight. The converse was the real eye-opener, though. Only the most powerful lights could be perceived as helping illuminate your path at dusk. It takes a lot more power to overcome the ambient light available and the relative dilation of your pupils to pierce dusk than full dark.
That was a disheartening realization for a simple reason. I’m far more likely to be caught out getting home late for a ride and need riding them than I am to need enough lighting to help me ride to the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Only the most expensive lights would help. Dang.
The 2012 Interbike show is scarred in my memory because that was the occasion when I made the mistake of staring at a 1000 lumens Lezyne Mega Drive when it was turned on. The entire convention center went fluorescent purple as my retinas attempted to recover. Wow.
Here’s what I hate about most lights: They don’t last long enough. They are hard to mount and remove. They are awkward thanks to cables that have to be strung to battery packs. And as previously mentioned, only depleted uranium is heavier. They are crazy expensive. The Mega Drive solves almost all of these issues.
The light features four modes: the 747 landing-light-esque 1000 lumens, which will go for 1.5 hrs; then there’s the enduro mode which offers a remarkably effective 500 lumens for 2.5 hrs; there’s the economy mode that offers 250 lumens (bright enough for a slow ride on a bike path in darkness) for a whopped in 5.5 hrs; finally, there’s a 250 lumens flashing function that will last for 10 hours—long enough to ride a Tour de France stage at night. It comes with quick-to-mount clamps for either 25.4mm or 31.8mm bars and the mount includes a swivel that will allow you to point the light to the exact spot ahead of your bike where you most want the light, not a foot to the right or the left.
Did I mention that it has the good fortune to look like something that would power Billy Blastoff’s next moon mission? It’s space-agey in a funnily retro ways, but that corrugated surface has actual engineering behind it; the casing is the light’s heat sink. My light, with 31.8mm clamp weighs all of 287g. I’ve eaten bananas that weighed more than that.
The battery is in the light, not at the end of some damn spiral cable nor does it take up a whole water bottle cage. The quick release mount means that it’s easy not just to do a ride without the light, but also to recharge it with a USB cable.
The rides I’ve done with this light have gone so well I’ve literally ceased to notice that I’m riding at night. While I’ve tried the light on the enduro mode, my rides in darkness have been short enough that I haven’t seen the point in cutting the power. Another liability of weak lights is that if you ride fast enough, you’ll outrun the light, meaning that you reach what enters the beam faster than you can process it. I can say with some authority that’s a bad thing if your path is being crossed by bunny rabbits. Been there, almost hit that. I’ve not ridden with another light that didn’t frustrate me at some level.
True story: Our son went missing at home a few months ago. While my wife looked for him, frantically waving a flashlight in closets, I grabbed the Mega Drive and used it in my search because … well because it was brighter than our flashlight.
Okay, so it’s $199.99. That’s not cheap. I won’t argue the point. But this is the first light I’ve run across where I saw the light (was blinded by it, actually) and then figured it was worth every cent.
I still don’t like riding at night, but thanks to the Mega Drive, I’m not so frightened anymore.
The era of the coordinated cycling collection is only barely out of its infancy. For most of my time in the sport of cycling jerseys have had a relationship to the shorts riders wore only if the same sponsor appeared on both garments. The notion that anyone might deliberately design a non-sponsor-adorned jersey to match yet another non-sponsor-adorned pair of shorts is as new as the credit default swap.
Capo Forma came into the market while collections were still struggling to gain acceptance, before serious style had really been established. If they can be credited with nothing else, they can at least take a bow for showing competitors how to use materials and design to create a harmonious look. I mean, if companies like Lululemon can make yoga wear cool enough to wear while wandering around town (and apparently there are because one can find towers of lean Manhattan Beach housewives on the loose daily), then cycling clothing ought to at least look good while you’re on the bike. I know, it’s a bit much to expect us to look great off the bike.
But like I said, that’s where Capo comes in. If you’ve ever met Capo’s CEO Gary Vasconi, you know why. Gary is a guy who prides himself on his Italian heritage. He dresses like he was raised in Milan, which is to say he’s always the best-dressed guy at Interbike. I’m sure he has a belt to match every pair of shoes he owns. Honestly, he dresses better than the guy at Nordstrom who sold me my suit.
That he’s in apparel is fortunate. That he’s in the bike industry is a miracle.
Up until I was sent the Padrone Long-Sleeve Jersey and the Roubaix Bib Knickers, all the Capo clothing I’d worn had been of the custom variety, which is a huge chunk their business. To give you some idea just how successful their designs are, last I recall, every six weeks Helen’s Cycles, the L.A.-area retailer with eleventy locations, places a fresh order for a new custom kit. They sell ‘em like some shops sell tubes.
Back to the Padrone collection. Part of the particular genius of this collection is that the look is not based on sublimated designs; rather, it comes from using different fabrics and creative patterning. Now, I will say that the back of the long sleeve jersey looks a bit like you’re wearing your bibs on the outside, rather than beneath the jersey, but I respect that the particle material selection comes from the need to use a less-stretchy material in portions of the back. By using a material without much vertical elasticity in the jersey back you can stuff the pockets with everything from a rain cape to spare bottles and not have the pockets sag down over your butt.
Both pieces are thermal, meaning they sport a brushed Roubaix finish inside. Normal Lycra/polyester knickers and long-sleeve jerseys carry me to the low 60s. I know some riders are calibrated differently and would wear such items into the mid-50s, but the sages who taught me said to cover your arms below 70 and your knees below 65. Roubaix material will generally increase my comfort into the low 50s. With a simple base layer the Padrone long-sleeve jersey and knickers were good for comfort from the upper 40s to the mid 60s.
The Padrone knickers and jersey sport a few features that used to be thought of as sort of extravagant. Full zippers were unheard of in long-sleeve jerseys just a few years ago, but can be particularly helpful for regulating temperature on days that warm considerably. And I can say from experience that that only thermal knickers on the market in the mid-90s that completely covered your belly and required a zipper for removal and calls of nature were manufactured by Assos. The extra material gives you a bit of extra insulation in a sensitive location. I struggle to drink enough on cold days; the cold fluid chills me and as a result I tend not to drink enough; the added material helps overcome the chilling that comes with a long tug on the bottle.
The single most eye-catching feature of the pieces I reviewed, though not the most notable was the red fleece used inside the knickers and at the sides of the jersey. At first look the material appears to be an ordinary black, but from certain angles the red fleece underlying the black poly surface shows through, giving the panels a burgundy-ish hue. The material called Thermo Roubaix® Dream that features a hollow core to keep you even warmer and the look is novel enough to be eye-catching. Using the red-backed fleece helped tie the two pieces visually so that they didn’t just look like two random winter pieces. In the photo above it looks a bit like the shot of the jersey includes the top of the knickers, but that’s how the jersey is actually cut. Incidentally, it’s worth noting that Capo runs the Roubaix material all the way up the front of the bibs, a move that’s uncommon, but offers just that much more insulation.
I had but two issues with the Padrone jersey and knickers. With the jersey I noticed that the upper arms and shoulders flapped in the wind. Unlike jerseys I’m wearing from Rapha and Road Holland right now, the Capo jersey was cut for someone who actually goes to the gym and does bench presses. If you have shoulders, biceps and/or triceps, and I don’t mean ones of the vestigial variety that make Andy Schleck look like a pink T. Rex, this is the jersey for you.
My knickers ran short. Even when the gripper elastic in the hem was positioned at the bottom of my knee cap I had trouble pulling the knickers high enough to get the chamois to follow my contours, rather than sit below my crotch. The Windtex® wind-stopper fabric used on the used on the front of the lower half of the knickers to help keep you dry on wet days contributed to this; wind-stopper fabrics, due to the membrane that keeps you dry, don’t stretch much, so simply pulling a bit more wasn’t an option. The trouble I learned, is that my knickers were pre-production and the final production knickers were cut with a 3cm-longer inseam. That increase in length will make a big difference for most, if not all riders.
Most pads I have encountered use two different thicknesses—or densities—of foam; the pad in the Padrone knickers features four different graduated thicknesses. It’s a sizable pad that—once properly situated—is truly an all-day pad, one that can easily carry you through a four- or five-hour training ride with comfort. Both pieces come in five sizes—Small through XXL. Sizing was in-line with other American lines I’ve worn; I took the small in the jersey and medium in the knickers.
The jersey comes in white or black and the bibs are available only in black. Both come with reflective tags for visibility. The jersey has three pockets; the two outer ones are cut at an angle for easy access. A fourth, water-resistant, zippered pocket has larger-than-usual capacity, making it perfect for a smart phone.
Of course, this quality comes at a price. The Padrone long-sleeve jersey carries a suggested retail of $220, while the Padrone knickers go for $230.
These are terrific pieces, but the jersey is best-suited to guys with guns.
I doubt very much the team that dreamt up the Ziploc snack-size baggy ever considered that it might be used to protect a device worth hundreds of dollars, rather than dispensing munchies. The fact remains: The #1 protector of iPhones that I see in use by cyclists is the Ziploc bag. At least, that’s what I see here in Southern California, where protecting a smart phone is an afterthought of less importance than, say, zipping your fly after a trip to the bathroom. During my recent trip to Memphis, however, I saw nary an iPhone in anything other than a water-resistant Otter Box. The combined effect caused me to wonder if I was in a city populated by nothing but ex-Navy SEALs.
I’ve wanted something that could offer my phone a bit of protection while also allowing me to keep track of a credit card and some cash. Something that made me look, well, look less homeless than using a plastic bag did.
I ran across the Lezyne Phone Wallet at Interbike and it was one of those revelations that is just what makes the show such a great adventure. I’ve been using one on rides where there’s a chance that I’ll stop for coffee. It’s got pockets for three cards (enough for a hotel room key plus two credit cards), a pleated pocket to hold some cash (and keep any change separated from the glass of your smart phone) and a zippered compartment for your smart phone. The zipper is water resistant and the seams around it are welded; add to that the water-resistant nylon material the wallet is cut from and you have something that offers at least as much protection from water as a baggy, not to mention it’s a good deal more functional.
The zippered cash compartment and the card pockets are contained in a flap that closes (thanks to Velcro) over a clear panel in the case so that you can actually use the phone a bit without removing it from the wallet. Not that you can place a call that way (trust me, I tried), but you can read a text message or email; hell, you can update your status on Facebook if you’re so motivated.
I try not to be. Motivated in that way, I mean.
The wallet is big enough to hold an iPhone 4 or 5 or any of the other myriad devices that you typically see. That flexibility of use is, unfortunately, the device’s only downfall. It measures roughly 5.5 inches by 3.5 inches—big enough that you are unlikely to get anything other than this into a jersey pocket. That said, the wallet features a zipper pull with a large loop that makes it easy to yank the wallet from your pocket should you hear your phone ringing.
I’m hesitant to be too critical of an item that goes for $19.99 that is also a clear improvement over anything I’ve previously used. Picking on this would be like complaining about a $2 slice of pizza—how bad can it be? It’s $2 and it’s pizza!
I like the Phone Wallet. I have to be honest though and say I’d like it a bit more if it were a bit smaller and more specifically adapted to my model of phone. Given the ubiquity of iPhones, it seems like it wouldn’t be a bad investment to offer iPhone 4- and 5-specific models alongside this more generic version. A snugger fit would make it easier to use the phone inside the wallet and leave a bit of room in that jersey pocket so you can stash a bit more food.
Thank heaven someone is thinking creatively about how to organize your stuff.
I’ve been aware of Knog products for years. Their Interbike booths have been places of wonder to visit each year, sometimes less for the products themselves than the presentation. One recent booth wasn’t so much a trade show exhibit as it was the 32-headed love child between a Euro disco and a roomful of architectural dioramas. I could have spent the whole night there.
But we’re talking about lights, or at least, we’re meant to be.
I’ve dealt with my share of blinky lights that pierce the darkness with the hope that they’ll remind drivers to go around rather than over me. Honestly, some aren’t all that bright. Most of the rechargeable ones I’ve encountered have batteries and/or charging systems fussier than my three year old (and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone except maybe one former girlfriend), while a great many of them are difficult to mount—even to a jersey pocket.
If you’d told me 10 years ago that one day four LEDs could be produce this much light, I’d have laughed until I snorted. The first time I turned the Blinder 4 Cross (a front light featuring white LEDs) on and turned it around to look at it, I turned it back around with all the haste of someone releasing the wild animal that has just bit them. It was brighter than some gifted kids. The front light is rated at 80 Lumens which, on paper, isn’t a lot and by not a lot I mean less than a night light, but my experience actually riding with this light is that it’s a good deal more useful.
On those mornings when I leave the house when it’s still pitch dark and there’s no glow on the horizon (it’s happened a few times in the last week), the Blinder 4 Cross has thrown enough light to actually help as a headlight. I didn’t set out with that desire, mind you; there was enough light being cast by the streetlights that my only concern was being seen by drivers. That the Blinder 4 Cross could actually illuminate the road in front of me was a real surprise. Of course, if I was traveling faster than about 12 mph I outran the light thrown, but I have enough uphill on the way to the start of my ride thatI was moving pretty slow. On full burn, Knog says the Blinder 4 Cross will last for three hours. I’ve gotten about a week’s worth of use from a single charge and all I need the light for is getting to the start of the ride, so that sounds about right to me; I get a week’s-worth of use from a single charge. It has four other settings and if switched to the Eco Flash a single charge should last 50 hours.
The Blinder 4V (a rear light featuring red LEDs) throws 44 Lumens which, again, on paper is absolutely dim. Dim, that is, until you actually stare directly into the flashing lights which generate enough light to spark seizures in the dead. Like the front version, the Blinder 4V offers five modes of use, ranging from steady (three-hour burn) to the 50-hour run time on the Eco Flash.
Charging these things is a snap. There’s a flip-out USB plug so that you don’t need a special charger, yet another outlet or anything fancy. Just plug it into your computer for a few hours. For those of you who are commuters, the ability to charge both your lights during your workday is useful like beer after manual labor.
Both lights come in a variety of colors and even styles to match your bike and your personal sense of style. At $44.95 apiece, these things ain’t cheap, but when I think back on what I’ve spent for other lights in the past, these are a good bit more useful, as evidenced by their clamp system. I’ve heard criticisms of the rubber bands that Knog uses for mounts on their Blinder-series lights. I can see how with repeated mountings (if you shift them from bike to bike as I do) they may eventually break. And at nearly $50, that would be a colossal frustration. Sure, you could strap the light to your bar or seatpost with a couple of zip ties, but really? What I can say is that if you’re switching them from bike to bike, the clamp system is pie-easy and wit-quick. In the past, moving lights was time consuming enough that I’ve had to appoint a single bike as my early morning winter bike.
Final thought: As bright as they are easy. If only kids were like this.
Today is what is known in the US as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the official beginning of the consumer frenzy that precedes Christmas. Bike shops across the country will spend this period selling off last year’s unsold inventory and trying to get their books into the black before the New Year comes and puts a general chill on cycling-related commerce.
Eurobike and Interbike allowed bike companies to trot out their wares only very recently. Padraig made a Herculean effort to highlight those wares here, here, here and here, and I was fortunate, this season, to be able to walk the show floor with him and talk about the relative merits of each company’s offering. I, for one, benefit from his insight, as he has this uncanny ability to tell you how something that looks shiny and fast on a pedestal in a conference hall will actually perform out on the road.
My own interests, this year, run almost entirely to more traditional products, made domestically. I can’t get enough wool jerseys. I can’t stop looking at the steel and Ti bikes being turned out by custom builders all over the country. I want almost everything Ibex makes. I want the latest Merckx biographies, and I want more hats. What is it about hats?
Oh, and I need some gloves that will keep my hands operational when the mercury dips below 30F. Suggestions?
This week’s Group Ride ignores completely the shameless consumerism of the season and instead indulges it. What the hell? What do you really, really want for Christmas? Is it a set of wheels? Is it a trainer and a stack of race videos? Are you likely to get whatever it is? Or do you live with a cycling Grinch, someone who doesn’t understand the mania you have for the finest Swiss toe warmers.
The bike industry has this funny habit of trying to sell me things I’m not sure I need. It is all change, all the time, and the trick of it is that some of the change is good and some of it is just expensive. I think of myself as a discerning consumer, but my parts bin will testify to some imprudent consumption throughout the years. It happens.
This year there are a couple trends that have me puzzling.
The first one is 650b mountain bikes, and let me come right out and say, I own one. In fact, it’s the only mountain bike I own. And it’s a single-speed, which makes it a lot like a unicorn in the mountain bike universe where everyone seems to be on a dual-suspension 29r anymore.
The conventional wisdom on 650b (or 27.5 for those of you who want the world to make sense) is that it combines the best of 26″ wheels, the weight and handling, with the best of 29rs, obstacle clearance and rolling speed. The new (actually old) wheel size is even being raced at World Cup level, so if there is some kool-aid drinking going on, it is not limited to a bunch of engineers in the parking lot of a bike company. This thing is happening.
At Interbike, Ritchey even displayed a 650b bike Tom built for himself, and raced, in the ’70s, perhaps just to confirm things we already knew such as, everything old is new again, AND Tom Ritchey is cooler than you or me.
Well, let me tell you, I have ridden 650b, and I like it. I’m not such a trail shredder that I will attempt to communicate in technical terms why it does what people say it does, but I do like it, and coming from a 26″ bike, I think it makes sense for my limited riding style and general propensity for impracticality.
The other trend, and this one is bigger and I’ll wager more interesting to RKP readers, is disc brakes on road bikes. Everybody’s talking. The big builders are rumbling as though this is going to be their next thing, but there are only a few market entrants at the moment. Volagi makes the Liscio (and soon the Viaje) and Colnago makes the C59 disc. Lynskey just announced one. Canyon showed one at Eurobike. And there are others, but chances are you haven’t seen them on the road yet. All current models are running mechanical discs while we wait for a really good drop bar shifter that will support hydraulics.
This week’s FGR is technical and wonky. Are these two trends worth our time? Do you see the value to 650b trail bikes? Will you go disc on the road? Why? Why not? Have you ridden either one? Share your experience. If the future is now, are you going along for the ride?
The big news from Cervelo wasn’t exactly earth-shattering, but it was good news nonetheless. The company’s S5 model, their very quick aero road frame is now available in the company’s relatively recent VWD variant. The upshot here is that the S5 should now have a livelier presence on the road. Also, the company debuted any number of new finishes, which if there has been one thing about Cervelo that can get really old it’s that the company can go years without changing a paint scheme. Not only are the new finishes, well, new, but I think they are pretty good looking and some of them even forego the clearcoat that covers almost all of their work, which is another step in the right direction in terms of road feel.
Race-winning bikes are always fun to check out at Interbike and Cervelo didn’t miss the opportunity to show off Ryder Hesjedal’s rig from his recent Giro win. Take a moment, if you would, to look at the incredible amount of seatpost showing on this 56cm frame as well as the 14cm tiller keeping the handlebar in place. I couldn’t help noticing, either that with the Di2 batter in its spot, the seat-tube-mounted water bottle cage is too low to allow the water bottle to be fully inserted. That’s a small oops in an otherwise amazing bike and crazy PRO fit. How anyone can ride that low and still climb remains a mystery to me.
I saw a bunch of new bags at Lezyne (rhymes with design). Given the cost of a decent pair of bibs—let alone the cost of an amazing pair of bibs—I’m unwilling to use a seat bag that features a Velcro strap that wraps around the seatpost. My favorite designs that qualify are from Fi’zi:k and Lezyne and this new design shown on the white bag above uses a clamp that secures to the saddle rails and allows the seat bag to be removed as easily as some bike computers. No rattle, no Velcro.
Also new at Lezyne were a couple of smart phone bags that allow you to protect your smart phone while maximizing the space in your back pocket. In insulating the phone while combining a few pockets with the overall carrier, plus adding a loop of webbing for ultra-quick retrieval, they created one of the most useful and truly new products I saw at the show. Well done.
The Mega Drive light, shown above, foreground, is a 1000 lumens light that will last for 1.5 hrs. At 500 lumens it will go for three hours, while on the 200 lumens setting it will last a whopping seven hours. All for $200. I suspect this light and the many other new lights in Lezyne’s line will be cast in the roles of game changers. We pointed the light at the roof of the convention center while on the 1000 lumens setting; it was bright enough at that distance to reveal that the Sands could use a serious dusting above the 60-foot elevation. I’m just sayin’.
File this one under “Not Dead Yet.” The GF02 is a new bike from BMC. It takes the design concepts used in the carbon fiber gran fondo bike, GF01—such as the whispy, flexing seat stays—and translates them into an aluminum frame. Yep, aluminum. This Red-equipped bike weighed in under 16 lbs. The production bike will be sold with choices of Red, Ultegra Di2, Ultegra or 105 and will bring BMC’s work into a new, more affordable price tier.
Chrome has been the go-to brand for the urban commuter since essentially the brand’s inception. They’ve expanded their offerings over the years into clothing, some urban-oriented technical wear and now they even offer shoes. Everything I saw from them at the show seemed really solid, but the items that most impressed me were their new series of camera bags. The open bag on display here will carry a couple of camera bodies as well as lenses and has a pocket (note where the hand is slipping into the bag) that will fit a 15″ laptop. There are waterproof pockets for your SD cards and given that it zips open like butterfly wings, everything within the bag is easily accessible. I don’t really want to carry that much camera gear while riding a bike (I mean, I seriously don’t want that much camera gear on my body, ever, but if it was, I wouldn’t want to have to ride a bicycle at the same time) but I concede that there are times when nothing else would be as practical. In those instances, this bag looks as well-thought-out as any I’ve ever seen.
A Personal Note
For each of the last 20 years I’ve gone to Interbike with the stated intention of seeing the latest and greatest the bike industry has to offer. When I went to my first show, in Atlantic City back in 1992, it really was just to see the bike stuff. I was eager to see all the stuff the shop I worked for wasn’t carrying. Every time I could get someone to acknowledge me and walk me through their products it was a kind of victory. Heck, back then, I really didn’t even know what questions to ask.
At a certain point in my education I began to understand how to ask the right questions, questions that showed I not only was interested in the product at hand, but understood the challenge of creating a competitive product within that category, which would lead to questions like, “Why did you decide to go with the full zip rather than the 3/4 invisible zip?” It was an opening for someone to talk about who they were as a company.
It took a while but there came a point when I realized that no matter how many of those questions I asked, I really hadn’t built a relationship with any of the staff at those companies. It wasn’t until we allowed the conversation to veer off-topic, into the riding we did, the traveling that’s not for work, where we live or family and heritage. These days, those are the conversations I live for. That’s where the magic happens, where you can really have a laugh. Robot and I spent some time in the Gita booth talking with creative director Jenny Tuttle. Gita is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, which gave us a chance to talk about the South and Southern Vernacular, in particular the obvious difference between saying “y’all” and “all y’all.” And we may have even bonded over the insane usefulness of a statement like, “All y’all are full of shit.” I didn’t know Jenny before that day, but I walked out of their booth convinced she’s my kinda peeps.
When I was young, I used to think that talking family was kind of a copout, like you had run out of more important stuff to talk about. Some years passed between when I understood what talking family meant and when my son was born and with the advent of Facebook, there was a lot of talk of kids at the show. Crazy what kind of fun that is. That said, the most memorable and even most visceral conversation I had at the show was with a group of guys in the Enve booth where the talk of the number of kids inevitably turned to talk of controlling the number of kids. Yes, the big V. And I don’t mean victory. One among us had done it and I can assure you no talk at the show caused anyone to to squirm more or laugh harder than I did that morning.
For all those of you who fell in love with the Castelli San Remo Speedsuit, this is the thermal ‘cross version. It features heavier-weight Roubaix Lycra for cold conditions and though the sleeves are longer, they are cut just to elbow length (just longer than) because Castelli’s research showed most racers were pushing up the sleeves on their long-sleeve skinsuits. Pricing on the custom San Remo Speedsuits is surprisingly good, though the number you buy will influence your final price. I have a covet.
Parlee showed a new frame set in the Enve booth. Long known for truly cutting-edge work in carbon fiber, the new Z0 rivals the very finest work any of the big guys are doing, while offering completely custom geometry. The frame will weigh in the neighborhood of 750 grams, depending on size and while the price hasn’t been announced, it will run upward of $5k.
Internal cable routing for either mechanical or electronic groups is one of the many, choice features of the frame.
The appearance of the new Z0 is as simple as it is elegant. Gone are the abrupt lug transitions of its predecessors. What you see now are the smooth lines of other monocoque frames. And that’s how Bob Parlee describes the frame—monocoque. Yes, it features eight tubes constructed by Enve, but what really brings those elements together in what appears to be an essentially seamless unit is Parlee’s incredible workmanship and skill. In a nod to what other companies have found regarding stiffness, the Z0 will feature a tapered head tube with 1 1/8-inch top and 1 1/4-inch lower bearings. That’s still not as big as most companies, but Parlee said it’s an effort to balance the needs of the all-day rider versus the need for performance. Speaking of the needs of the all-day rider, the z0 will accommodate 28mm tires. Yeah, it’s like that.
Parlee also showed this disc-brake version of the new Z0. They expect it to be a standard option soon. Making the bike all the more attractive was the powder blue with orange paint scheme that recalls the Ford GT40, arguably one of the more iconic cars ever created.
Stages Cycling introduced a new power meter that will go for $699 and is contained entirely within the non-drive-side crank arm. It is both bluetooth and ANT+ compatible so it can talk to any device you’re running, including your iPhone or Android. They’ve inked agreements with most crank arm manufacturers so nearly any crank you might be running is available.
The StageONE power meter has been in development for more than two years and while it might not do everything that an SRM does, the vast majority of us don’t need quite the level of detail that it provides. Honestly, I don’t care if I’m using a power meter that’s off by 10 watts, so long as it’s consistent, nor do I care that much about an imbalance in my leg strength; I have neither the time nor inclination to head to a gym to solve one relatively minor problem. I think the real genius in this is that: A) it adds only 20 grams to the bike’s weight and B) if you’re running the same group on multiple bikes, you can conceivably swap the crank arm from time to time so that you can enjoy wattage data from more than one bike while still enjoying your choice of wheel sets.
I can’t say that anything I saw at Enve was new. I couldn’t help but stop by their booth because of the number of cool bikes they had and I’m eager for a chance to ride some of the new Smart system wheels in carbon clincher. A chance just to look at them is too good to pass up.
Polar has a new wrist unit GPS. Okay, so wrist units strapped to a handlebar are sooo 1990s (they’ll have a handlebar-specifc unit for 2013), but the entry by Polar into the GPS game is pretty interesting. The genius of Polar has never been the units themselves, it was always the software and firmware. The company has always been fixated on helping users analyze their training so they get the most out of each workout. The RC3 GPS includes a full suite of GPS features plus Polar’s Smart Coaching software which provides a viable alternative to products like Training Peaks.
The RC3 GPS bike package includes a heart rate monitor chest strap plus cadence sensor and goes for $369.95. It’s also worth noting that while the usability of Polar units has long been in question (they can be more complicated to operate than a Rubik’s Cube), the RC3 GPS was terrifically easy to operate, with a minimum number of button presses to start a workout.
Also worth noting is that Polar is now selling a bluetooth compatible heart rate monitor chest strap. So for all of you out there who run Strava on your iPhone while it sits in your jersey pocket, this is a way to record heart rate data without a dongle. Not just cool, damn cool.
I got my first look at the Sufferfest videos over at the Minoura booth. Minoura has been making solid trainers for ages; I had one back in the 1990s that I put 1000 miles on in a single winter.
It’s a winter I don’t wish to repeat. However, if I had to, the Sufferfest videos with their funny copy, imperative instructions and first-rate race footage could make an hour go by like 15 minutes, and anyone who has ever spent time on a trainer knows that the world usually works the other way around. It doesn’t hurt that if you buy a Minoura trainer you get a Sufferfest DVD with the unit. I can say that the only way I made it through that aforementioned winter was by watching VHS tapes I had recorded of any/all racing that appeared on TV. The Sufferfest video boils the action down into crafted workouts that are both structured and fun to watch, if not to do.
Which is the point, I suppose.
This would be a detail from a Pegoretti frame. ‘Nuff said.
Giordana and DMT have gone big on neon yellow. For everyone who has associated the color popularized as “Screaming Yellow” by Pearl Izumi as the mark of a new cyclist, get ready to have your assumptions nullified like so many Florida votes. If Giordana has any say in it, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of this seemingly battery-powered color on the road. Whether it’s an offense to your eyes or your aesthetics (or both) having a few more of us out in this color can’t help. We might be seen with more frequency and if your average texting driver gets the idea that free-range cyclists are more common, then they might thumb-LOL their friends a bit less. Which would be good for our survival, huh?
Let’s see, it’s corporate and smacks of the kind of branding tie-in that results in Jack Daniels’ BBQ sauce at chain eateries like T.G.I. Friday’s. But dude, something about this screams summer day and, “Have a Coke and a smile.” Which it did. Make me smile, that is. The folks at Nirve are no dummies. It’s a Coke crate on wheels screaming with the Dopamine bliss of ice cold sugar and caffeine. I don’t just like this bike, I want it, but only if I can get it complete with the banner.
There’s a reason why companies like Trek, Giant and Specialized are working hard to squeeze lines like Focus and Felt out of their dealers. They are offering killer values. The Cayo Evo 6.0 in the foreground retails for a measly $2150 and features the exact frame as its more expensive Cayo Evo counterparts. The drivetrain is Shimano 105 with an FSA crank and Fulcrum wheels. Its big brother, the Cayo Evo 1.0 goes for $4500 and comes equipped with Campy Chorus and Vision wheels.
So let’s start this off with a correction. This is the image I meant to pull for Day 1′s mention of the BMC TMR01, their new aero road frame. I plead thumbnail size.
The fork design is fascinating for the way it hides the brake cable and as an illustration of the lengths that engineers have to go to avoid violating any of the UCI’s ridiculous rules regarding aerodynamics. In a way the brilliance here is less a demonstration of real creativity than an indictment of the terrible way in which the UCI wields power. Yeah, I bet you were thinking that we’d leave criticism of the UCI just for discussions of doping.
I dropped by Hincapie and saw a number of new designs. Fit seems to continue to improve with them (I’ve got a kit from ’12 that I’ve been meaning to review that is the best-fitting from them I’ve ever worn) and thanks to designs like this one, the look is better than ever.
This big news at Campagnolo is the new Athena 11 with triple. While my personal preference these days is to go compact, I have always supported triples and in the case of Campagnolo and their Ergopower levers, found them easy to set up and shift. Yes, they are heavier and result in a wider Q, but they aren’t the wildebeests that some would have you believe. The combination of a triple and an 11-speed 12-29 cassette will let anyone go almost anywhere paved without having to buy a $7000 (or more) bike.
Among a great many cool things I saw at Ritchey was this display of two mountain bikes, both featuring 650B wheels. The industry seems ready to endorse this wheel size en masse. More nimble than 29-inch-wheeled mountain bikes and better rolling than its 26-inch-wheeled counterarts, everyone’s touting 650B as a great compromise. Shown here are Ritchey’s new P-650b (the red, white and blue bike in back) and a mountain bike that Tom built back in the 1977 (think Debbie Boone and Fleetwood Mac). Yep, both feature 650B wheels. I didn’t even have time to get into where Ritchey found the rims and tires back then, but the bike implicitly begs the question.
And if you’ve never had reason to appreciate just how fine Ritchey’s fillet brazing is, here’s the seat cluster from that 560B mountain bike he built in ’77. This is on my list of the top-five prettiest things I saw at Interbike.
The Legend is the new shoe from Giro that you’ve already been seeing on Taylor Phinney’s rather sizable dogs. Whether you dig the lace-up design or not, one of the notable features—perhaps the most notable feature of the new shoe—is the Teijin upper. Teijin is a microfiber material with greater durability and less stretch than traditional leather (meaning you won’t kill your shoes by going for a ride in the rain), but Giro found a way to make the upper from a single, seamless piece of the material. Crazy.
Giro’s designers decided to do a bunch of one-off exercises on the Legend for its launch. This one, a nod to classic hiking boots from companies like Asolo, re-imagines the Legend with the one-piece Teijin upper made to look like tanned leather. I couldn’t not shoot this. It would totally be the shiz for ‘cross racing. Right?
The Reverb is one of Giro’s many helmets aimed at commuters. What makes the Reverb different (and remember that reverb is a first-cousin to echo) is the way its design calls upon the past in a very specific way. It looks like the old LeMond Air Attack helmet even more than my son looks like me. Last year they offered the Reverb in the same Tequila Sunrise finish they offered circa 1992. This year’s palette includes this nod to LeMond’s Team Z helmet that he wore to victory in 1990.
There was a time when Pearl Izumi was my absolute barometer for great cycling clothing. In the 1990s custom team clothing was a step down from what Pearl offered. I raced in my team kit, but I trained in Pearl. Just how it was. And then something happened—okay, I’ll tell you what happened: custom team clothing, from companies like Voler, improved dramatically, and for a period of time Pearl lost their way, releasing boatloads of clothing that was good, but not amazing. There’s been a shakeup at Pearl and one of their brightest and most insightful designers has returned. The line has received a pretty serious overhaul and I saw piece after piece that I’d put up against the best stuff coming out of Capo or Giordana.