The Gore Oxygen Jacket is a classic rain cape: waterproof as a sippy cup, tail longer than a cat’s, less insulated than the feelings of a poet and only slightly more breathable than Tupperware. You expect those things in a rain cape the way you expect any car you drive to go fast enough to achieve freeway speeds. Without that, what’s the point? And I’ll say that while I have claimed not to wear windbreakers, I will wear a rain cape, but only when the conditions would be described as duress.
What I didn’t expect was that the $249.99 Oxygen jacket would fit better than my Assos ClimaJet rain cape. Virtually nothing ever fits better than anything I have from Assos. The best fitting bibs, jersey and gloves I’ve ever worn were all conceived and manufactured in Switzerland. Same for my favorite long-sleeve jersey.
But the Oxygen rain cape? The difference in fit between this and the ClimaJet is a matter of just slightly more deliberate and careful cut in a few key dimensions. Remarkably, fit of the sleeves and torso is a touch snugger on the Oxygen. The sleeves are also longer on the Oxygen and cover a portion of my hand, instead of just ending at my wrist. Plus, there are zippers at the wrist so that you can pull the jacket on and then add your long-finger gloves afterward. By zipping the jacket down over the end of the glove, your hands are likely to stay a bit drier, at least as dry as the glove will permit. What you won’t have to suffer is rain running down the sleeve and then into the glove thanks to the gap between the cuff of the sleeve and the beginning of the glove.
The tail of the jacket is both wider and longer. It actually envelopes my rather substantial trunk. Keeping the tail in place is gripper elastic, something lacking on the ClimaJet. This is significant because while no one without fenders will finish a ride with a dry butt, the difference between a good tail on a jacket and a bad one is whether your chamois is damp or a dripping sponge. Dripping sponge is bueno-free.
I need to acknowledge that in comparing the Oxygen to the ClimaJet, I’m almost playing a bit of dirty pool. Assos has replaced the ClimaJet with the ClimaSchutz, so I’m comparing a current jacket to a not current jacket. However, I’m doing this for two good reasons. First, I haven’t tried the ClimaSchutz, so there’s that. Second, the ClimaJet was absolutely the best rain cape I’d ever used until the Oxygen came down the pike.
On a rainy day that also happened to be cold, the ClimaJet would be better because it would allow me to layer more beneath it. Despite the lack of mesh panels for ventilation (like the ClimaJet), the Oxygen was every bit as breathable, presumably because of the Gore-Tex Active Shell fabric it is cut from. Gore claims it feels great against your skin, but I’d still prefer at least a light layer of wool or poly between me and this thing; certainly, that’s how I rode it. However, unlike other lightweight, stuff-in-your-pocket rain capes, this unit is a bit bulky for pocket duty. This is the sort of piece that you’re going to leave home wearing, with the likely expectation that you’ll have it on for the whole of the ride. It’s not impossible, mind you, but if you’re looking for something that wads up like a banned plastic grocery bag, this ain’t it. Ooh, I should also mention that the zipper is more watertight than some wine corks.
My only beef with this thing is that while it comes in eight colors (yay!), I was given the all-black version. What the hell? Going ninja couture on a rainy day makes as much sense as chumming for sharks from a canoe. Any of the other color ways seems a much better idea, even the white, which will probably be tan/gray permanently by the end of the first ride. It comes in five sizes: S, M, L, XL and XXL; I wear the medium.
It’s pieces like this that make me wonder why the hell Gore’s reputation for cycling apparel isn’t better. They’ve done the work. Now they deserve some credit.
For Part I, go here.
PB: When fitting a customer for a bike, how do you usually work? How often is it in person?
RS: The interaction I have with a client always includes a dialogue as well as a completed order form containing the conventional anatomical measurements and the contact points assimilated on the bicycle or bicycles used. I usually give all of this (that is, the information I have at hand) about 30 quick seconds before an image is conceived for the design which will become the client’s frame. No formulas. No stationary bicycles. No don’t touch me there stuff. I’d say it’s all intuitive. Some cats see dead people. I see riders on bicycles. It’s just that simple. PS: This all occurs in person less than 10 times per year and has never been any other way. Since my first week in the trade, nearly all of my orders were filled for clients who were anything but local to me.
PB: Let’s talk about geometry: Would you say all your bikes have a consistent ride that is your signature, or do you vary your geometry based on the customer’s preferences and needs?
RS: I make road bicycles. Since my background is from the sport, I know what has to go where so that the bicycle I make 1) fits the rider superbly well, and 2) handles the way it should, atmo. It has nothing to do with whether the cats rides on the road or pins on a number to enter a race, nor would it matter if the race is an industrial park criterium or a Battenkill or similar. I make road bicycles and they work on a road. Period.
PB: Who does your paint?
RS: JB Custom Paint (Joe Bell).
PB: How long have you been working with Joe?
RS: JB has painted all of my frames since 1986.
PB: How long is the wait for new customers?
RS: It’s less of a wait and more of an ordeal, atmo. But another two Obamas at this point and I might be near that last order currently in the queue.
PB: Do you ever anticipate taking new orders again?
RS: I do take orders. There’s some ambiguity surrounding what I do and don’t do and I will try to arrange that disorder here. In late 2008 I stopped taking orders for Richard Sachs Signature road frames from new clients. There was a window of about 4 weeks left open until all of this went into effect. All along, I have still accepted orders from 1) repeat clients, and 2) for other types (‘cross, for example) of frames. Also, while I didn’t put this in the fine print, I never turned down an order from someone stationed in the military, or from a teacher, or from a member of the clergy. In my mind, folks who fall into these categories are beyond my ever saying no to. If they wanted to get in the queue and be part of the ordeal, so be it, atmo. So, yeah – with the current demand lined up, the delivery is about 7-8 years or so. Data point: I work at a 4-6 frame a month pace, have left spaces open each year for some repair and emergency work, and anticipate continuing to run a ‘cross team whose frames will also need to be made during seasons years from today. I’ve done my best to map it all out and keep it from owning me. It’s my business, but it’s also my life. I don’t want to have or invite stress, atmo.
PB: What’s your pricing like?
RS: The 2010 frame base price is $4000. Most of my frames are sold as assembled bicycles.
PB: What keeps the work fresh for you and gets you up in the morning (or out in the evening) and excited to build?
RS: To quote myself paraphrasing a quote from the sculptor Louis Bourgeois about whom I read an article in an in-flight magazine some twenty years ago, “I continue to work in order to redeem myself for all my past mistakes.” Or some shit like that….
PB: You’re part of The Framebuilders’ Collective. What was the motivation to help start an association devoted to what can be a pretty solitary craft?
RS: TFC is a group born from a connection several of us made with each other early on in the framebuilding message board and listserv era. Those involved felt a kinship and synergy with the others and wanted to cement a bond. While it took several years of backroom chats and decision making, the collective was created. We made the concept public at the NAHBS show in Indianapolis. It’s a peer group. I don’t think it exists to legitimize us, or what we do, but it would be incorrect to assume we don’t have long term goals. The website’s two short pages should answer every question folks would have about the organization.
PB: You sponsor a pretty dynamite cyclocross team. How did this season go?
RS: It was a great season. They all are. My personal results were less than they were in 2009, but I can still live with them.
PB: Since you started the ‘cross team you’ve had some stunning successes. Would you recount a few high points for us?
RS: The ‘cross team began as a stepchild to the road team(s) I had been supporting and managing going all the way back to 1982. By 1998 I decided to focus all of my marketing efforts and sponsorship dollars on ‘cross. Members of the team have won 10 National Championships over the years and have represented at the Worlds on at least 6 occasions. At the core, the team has always been comprised of pals, or pals of pals. We’ve never recruited, poached a rider from another organization, or rested our hat on one particular cat or kitten. It’s always been a group effort and I have found myself using the word family with some regularity. We get along, we travel well, we live for autumn, and then we disband in January. Rinse, lather, repeat, atmo.
The single highest point I can articulate with regard to the RS ‘Cross Team is that it has become a brand onto itself and, by dint of that, is a trustworthy financial and emotional investment for all the sponsors, industry suppliers, and supporters it’s had over its history.
PB: What’s your life away from building like?
RS: It’s one in transition, atmo. Since I left for Vermont that fateful day in the early 1970s and my life took one turn after another, followed by more of them, I rarely looked back to assess the direction or to help shape it. That’s why I use the word serendipity to the point of overuse or even abuse. But as I approach my 40th year at the bench and answer questions like yours, I do reflect on all of it as a body of work. Because of that, and owing to my age (57 as of this writing), I can’t ignore that I have lived more than half of my life. I’d like to find a way to take what’s left and make it as enriching as possible. To date, my focus has consumed me and I am beyond being one-dimensional. As a matter of fact, I could be the poster boy for the one-dimensional life. The transition is, or will be, about what else out there might call for me. For years I have described myself as a racer who makes bicycles (not the other way around), and that the job I have stayed with was just a way to spend the days sandwiched between race starts. As my own racing interests wane, I now think about what else is out there. Okay – I have to get back to earth now, atmo….
PB: Do you have outside interests beyond bicycles?
RS: My family and my home life are my life, much less my life away from bicycles.
PB: When people talk about the A-list of frame builders, your name is at or near the top of everyone’s list. To what do you attribute that?
RS: There’s this saying, sooner or later we all become our parents, or words to that effect. I think the A-list stuff is just fodder. Or gossip. There will always be a pecking order, or a list of folks who are new, or new with a bullet, or firmly established and part of the mainstream. Having been part of the niche from the 1970s, and living through an era or three when there was no niche left to speak of, and to still be attached to it all in the internet years when framebuilding is cool again, I’ve become a point of reference. My frames are not better, and I don’t know that much more than others, but I am still here working daily and part of the crowd. Writers see this and it becomes a story. Other writers see it and also see the story, and more stories are written. The public ends up reading what’s served up, attaching its own emotion to it, and that energy contributes to the talk you speak of. It’s just that simple.
PB: Who do you consider your peers from a standpoint of work quality?
RS: I know many the players but not their processes. There are lots of craftsmen who are capable of making a frame of high quality, one which fits well, and also exhibits the personal touch and beautiful flourishes that the niche is known for.
PB: You’ve got an awfully high profile for a one-man shop. What are some of the things you offer for sale aside from frames and T-shirts?
RS: There are the aforementioned framebuilding parts and supplies, of course. I also have RS ‘Cross Team apparel, the Imperfection Is Perfection DVD, several posters, and a variety of atmo and CFRA (‘Cross Fucking Rules Atmo) stuff. The site has the mother lode listed on one of the pages.
PB: How important is self-promotion for a builder?
RS: It’s a business, atmo. You have to be both accessible and approachable. It helps to also know what goes where.
PB: You’ve just done a big overhaul of your look. How did the collaboration with House Industries come about?
RS: About 22 months ago I asked Rich Roat and House Industries to take a look at my identity program, deconstruct it, and create something for me with what was left. Before that, maybe a half year earlier, I woke up, looked at what I had (the 30+ years of essentially red and white) and concluded I was done with it.
PB: How much freedom and/or direction did you give them?
RS: My desire was change, either wholesale, or minimal the choice, the direction, the entire range of concepts (and there may have been just the one—I never asked) was in their hands. I made the decision to change, asked Rich and House Industries if they would take on the project, and waited until it was complete before I saw anything. This is all their work. And I couldn’t be happier. And I wouldn’t change a single thing they did.
PB: So what happens if someone wants the old red and white, the old decals?
RS: This is what I do now—dot period. And it’s not a new policy at all. I have had quite a few art file revisions through years. Decal scales change. Ink colors get bolder or more opaque.The frame reliefs get trimmed with different shades of paint. Font borderline weights have evolved. Even the reds and whites we have used all along since 1981 have had more variations than I can remember. When any single line in the sand was crossed, we never went back to what came earlier. It’s no different this time.The graphic details that House Industries created for me are now the default art that comes on my bicycles. The red and white scheme that so many are familiar with is now part of my past.
PB: Anything else on the horizon we should know about?
RS: You know the line, and I know you know the movie. So I’ll just add the quote: ”Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking again.” That has been my policy for at least as long as the film has been in rotation on cable television.
PB: Don’t forget the contact info:
RS: TBC …
Cycling is a pursuit with almost limitless expression. It is efficiency itself, a way to remake cities in the 21st century. It is a magnification of sport, a chance to see competition as the ultimate mastery over chaos (how many other sports may see 20 teams on the field?), as well as a chance to magnify athleticism through the microscope of the time trial. There’s the devotion to routine and ritual that comes in daily training, giving us a chance to consider the more spiritual side of the sport. What of the shop wrenches who keep us on the road? They are the doctors of the sport, the GPs who make sure that our society continues to function. Finally, there are the high priests and artists—the frame builders—all consideration of cycling as a craft emanate from them. It is in the exploration of craft, breaking it down, finding those inner drives and how they manifest in someone’s work that we learn about artistry and how it’s possible to make an individual statement even when working with a set of components that anyone else in the world can purchase.
All the most interesting conversations I’ve had in cycling have shared a detail in common. Somewhere at the root of that conversation the driver was the creative urge. That urge to create, to find out what is possible has been behind conversations I’ve had with entrepreneurs like Mike Sinyard, some of the top engineers in cycling, a few of the more insightful pros I’ve encountered, and of course, most every frame builder I’ve ever met.
Something RKP hasn’t done to my satisfaction is shine a spotlight on great builders. Interviewing frame builders is something I’ve done since even before my time at Bicycle Guide, where I was one of the editors responsible for the Hot Tubes column. Reader polls told us that Hot Tubes was the single most popular feature in the magazine, so later, when I launched Asphalt, I doubled-down on that, taking a one-page department and turning it into a four-page feature called Torchbearers. Though we didn’t take any polls, I can tell you that what I learned from readers was it was wildly popular. For a while, I was responsible for an online column at Peloton called Artisans which traveled much the same territory, though it used a straight Q&A format. Eventually it came to an end, mostly because of my inability to herd cats; delivering a weekly interview with a frame builder can involve a degree of chasing befitting a bounty hunter. Unless you’re standing in front of the builder, it can be hard to get some of them to talk. The irony here is that no one ever says no; they just prove to be Higgs-Boson elusive.
The pieces I did for Artisans are still live and can be found here. I’m pleased that they are still up; so many things get deleted off the web with a simple click. However, because RKP fundamentally serves as my calling card, I’m going to reprint the interviews here and begin adding to them with new ones, though without the strain of a weekly deadline. I’ll also be pulling in one of our contributors, Irene Bond, to help with the cat herding.
Our first installment is a guy that some have accused of being overexposed, almost too well known. I submit that even though Richard Sachs didn’t invent the craft, he’s the guy that drew the blueprint from which most other builders have planned their career. In a sense, Sachs is the prototype, the ur-builder. He’s also significant in that he has risen beyond just being a frame builder. He is truly a brand. And while his notoriety has rankled some, I submit that he is the model for how to create a real business. There’s more to being a frame builder than building frames. It’s invoicing, getting someone to design your logo, decals and T-shirts. It’s invoicing and paying. It’s responding to clients. I’ve had a number of conversations with builders in which they revealed that they didn’t want to do all that stuff. They just wanted to build. Sometimes I’d ask if they’d considered calling Richard Schwinn or Ben Serotta. After all, that’s the difference between a craftsman and a frame builder. A frame builder is a whole business.
There is, however, a more compelling reason to start such a series with Sachs. It is because of the many builders I’ve spoken to over the years, he is the one that understands best what craft is about, that an apprenticeship must take place before once gains mastery. He and I share a love for the dailiness of exercising a craft, him with the torch, me with sentences. He once sent me an interview with Thomas Keller, the chef behind what is arguably the greatest restaurant in the U.S., the French Laundry. In it, Keller talked about craft and how a certain understanding comes once you’ve scrambled a few thousand eggs. No one in frame building has been as thoughtful about craft as Sachs, no one has been as articulate. This is the best place to start.
PB: Tell us where you’re based.
RS: I live in a western Massachusetts hill town of 710 people on a dead end dirt road.
PB: What caused you to move there?
RS: Chester, Connecticut became my home when I arrived back from my frame building training in London. I turned 19 years old there. One day several years ago, we (my wife and I) decided this village of 3,000 was too crowded and made a plan to leave.
PB: What’s the riding like there (where you live now)?
RS: The riding here is extraordinary, atmo (according to my opinion). An amazing ride that takes in some of the region’s dirt roads, called D2R2, starts about 30 miles from my door. This area’s landscape and solitude were major reasons why we chose Franklin County as a landing spot.
PB: How long were you in Connecticut?
RS: 37 years or so.
PB: Where did you grow up?
RS: I am from New Jersey but that hardly speaks to your question.
PB: Why not?
RS: Spending a lifetime riding a bicycle, and racing almost every available weekend, as well as working alone at what is more a creative endeavor than a routine job, and having no children of my own – all of this is a recipe for arrested development. I live within these very margins.
PB: How long have you been building?
RS: My brand began in 1975.
PB: How did you get your start?
RS: It all began serendipitously. I planned to attend Goddard College to pursue my interest in creative writing. This took a turn when admission was granted several months after the usual September semester start. Since I had the summer vacation and some extra months to kill, I took a menial job in Manhattan. One day, I saw an ad in the Village Voice for a bicycle mechanic’s position in Vermont. Within a week I was on a Greyhound bus with a one way ticket to Burlington. Sadly, when I walked in to get my job I learned that it had been filled weeks earlier despite that the newspaper was still circulating the classified. Worse yet, in the layers of conversation I had with the staff, they made it clear I was not qualified. I took this personally and was very disappointed. By that point in my young life I was riding quality bicycles, doing all my own repairs, and had already a mild interest in the handmade stuff, being (then) a client in waiting for my first of what would ultimately be three W.B.Hurlow frames. So, rejection in hand, I deliberated on what was next. I had no backup plan to tide me over until my April admission to Goddard. I decided the only way to avenge what happened was to prove how wrong they were for not hiring me. In my mind, the only thing cooler than fixing bicycles would be making them, though I cannot for the life of me recall where that sentiment came from. I grabbed an issue of International Cycle Sport, a spiral bound notepad, some pens, and spent an afternoon at the library at UVM. All in all, I collected some thirty names and addresses of firms that appeared to make bicycle frames on the premises. These became my targets. I wrote letters to each of them explaining my desire to come to England and work for free in return for their teaching me to build frames. Thirty letters were mailed. Three replies were received. Two said no. These were from Bob Jackson Cycles and Ellis Briggs Cycles. The one yes came from Ernie Witcomb, whose eponymous family business was in southeast London. To England I flew.
PB: Who else worked with you at Witcomb?
RS: Well the Witcombs: Ernie, his wife, Lil, and son, Barry, were there. A man named Jim Collier was making frames and so was David Cotton. There was also Charles Barrett and a boy named Rob whose last name escapes me. I was there for about a month when Peter Weigle arrived. In the course of my 10 months in Deptford, another two or three Americans came and went, all chasing dreams similar to mine, or one would assume.
When my stint in Deptford ended, I came back to the states and hung out in New Jersey for a month or so deciding what to do next. I had postponed the Goddard April admission. The Witcomb family had liaisons with a New England firm called Sports East, Limited. They were in the outdoor sports and recreation business but on the agency and sales side. This company, based in East Haddam, Connecticut, proposed to the Witcomb family to represent them and all they could supply to the North American market. This was at the height of the 1970s fitness craze-slash-bike boom-slash-oil embargo and it was a good time to be in the ten speed bicycle business at any level, atmo. I decided that the pull towards staying in bicycles vis-à-vis a job offer at Witcomb USA (the division created at Sports East to market the English bicycles) was stronger than my then fading urge to write or attend college. I took the train to Old Saybrook and began work in East Haddam.
The job description was actually pretty lame and I knew that going in. My position at Witcomb USA was more as a gopher than anything else because, in reality, the division existed primarily as an importer and distributor. My place there was secured mostly because my 10 months in London gave them some much needed insight and credibility when it came to the bicycles they were an agency for.
Everything in Connecticut was going swimmingly well for a year or so until it was clear that the Witcombs (in London) were incapable of supplying frames to meet the demand the sales force in East Haddam had created. The long and short of this is: Ed (the owner) told us (me and Peter Weigle, who had also been there all this time) that we were now going to make the frames that London couldn’t. Peter and I hadn’t held a torch since we left Deptford almost a year earlier. And when we left, we were not framebuilders, just two cats who worked at a framebuilding shop long enough to see it done. This didn’t matter to Ed at all. He had an investment to protect and the salesmen had orders to fill. Peter and I were going to make the frames no matter how much money it would take in tooling and trial and error for us to get up to speed.
Before long, Peter and I got a process dialed in and it was enough to make frames on the premises so that Ed and the crew could ship them to all points nationwide. By some fluke and many thousands of dollars invested, Ed created the Witcomb USA bicycle brand and we were off to the races.
My stay at the company lasted only a year more. In the interim we had hired Gary Sinkus to do set up work and we also trained Chris Chance to do prep as well as paint work. Before my departure, I recall we were making many frames and were very efficient too. There was no standing back and admiring lug edges or celebrating that we were taking part in some creative process. Ed and the salesmen gave us stacks of frame orders, and Peter and I took care of filling them.
Ultimately I left because I felt whatever enthusiasm I was holding to as a young framebuilder in an exciting era was too often neutralized by Ed’s all-business approach to what we had become a part of. In hindsight, the reality was that I was too young to have all the responsibility that came with being that important a part of his commercial plan. I wanted to make the frames, but without the routine and impersonal connections that became the norm. Well, that’s the short answer.
PB: Have you held other positions in the industry?
RS: No. Actually, I have never done anything else (for pay) since I left The Peddie School in 1971.
PB: When did you strike out on your own?
PB: Do you ever work in a material other than steel??
RS: In the last 10 years or so I have also worked heavily in opinions, atmo. I kept a tight lid on my thoughts through about 1997. One day, I was asked to speak about the framebuilding industry, such as it was, and I found myself having a watershed moment. It was like, after 25 years at the bench it was finally okay for me to have a point of view. I haven’t relented since.
PB: Who makes the tubing and lugs you like to use?
RS: I am a dedicated Columbus client. About 6-7 years ago they began to supply a tube set that resulted from collaboration between Dario Pegoretti and me. The two of us felt the need for components which would 1) be made specifically for framebuilders who were using lugs, 2) have all the characteristics of the material so that the makers (us) and the users (clients) had a steady supply, and 3) could be 21st-century sized and shaped, and with a weight that would appeal to the present market rather than the retro one. Spirit for lugs (SFL) was born, though I prefer to call it PegoRichie. Columbus manufactures it and it’s already several iterations updated since it all began. I also import and distribute PegoRichie tubing to other framebuilders.
Regarding lugs and parts: I have designed 4 different styles. Richie-Issimo, Newvex, Nuovo Richie, and Rene Singer are the model names. Each set began as a white sheet of paper with the goal of bringing high style, precision cast components to the market so that I would have my own supply and not be dependent upon the ever shrinking inventories that then existed. Along with the tubing I also sell these lugs. There are also 2 fork crowns, a bottom bracket shell, and a front changer braze-on that are part of the menu. By mid winter I will also have an over-oversized version of the Richie-Issimo lugs and shell ready for the market.
PB: Tell us about the jig you use.
RS: I use a Bike Machinery Hydra. It’s made in Italy and I have used it since the early 1980s. The first seven hundred or so frames I made predate its arrival and I’d wager that it took 2-3 years before I was comfortable and facile using it. In London, we did things, eh – they did things the old way; there was a forge, town gas, a torch that put out a flame some 20” long, no tools, no power equipment, and no fixtures. The frames I made through 1982 were all assembled using procedures mined or refined from my time abroad.
PB: What sort of cutting and shaping of lugs do you like to perform? Does it vary from bike to bike or are there stylistic elements people can find running through all your bikes?
RS: Oh I don’t know. This is one of those button issues for me. To separate out the lug, or any single component or dimension from the whole is to miss the point. I make frames, not stylistic elements, atmo.
For Part II, click here.
Shoes have a new fastening system taking over. Dials, be they from Boa or imitators, are now gracing the pro-level shoe offerings from just about everybody. Specialized and Lake and Scott have been on this for years, but now they’ve been joined by Diadora, DMT, Gaerne, Louis Garneau, Northwave, Sidi, Vittoria and Pearl Izumi. Izumi was, amazingly, one of the first to bring the Boa dial system to market, dropped it, and is now back.
Shimano, owner of Pearl Izumi, is sticking to the two straps and buckle system. The ranks of holdouts include Fizik, Giro, and Mavic. Strikingly, all claim high technology to be their calling card. Giro, for one, is still standing firm with their retro-cool lace-up Empire shoes.
Orange is the New Black
Last year, fluo green was the hot color. This year, it’s orange. Mostly fluo orange, but not entirely. Poc totally rocked the orange; the color is tied to their brand identity. But there was plenty of orange to go around, particularly for shoes and helmets. Shoes, preferably in shiny, perforated microfiber, are going orange at Giro, Northwave, Lake, and others. In helmets, Giro is joining the orange crew that Lazer and Rudy Project already started.
Wide Rims are the New Black
At first, it was a trickle. Now it’s a flood. Starting with Hed’s C2 and moving to Zipp and far beyond. Wide rims are just about everywhere. Easton has the Fantom rim, on their EC90 Aero 55 clincher and tubular. The new EC90 is really wide, 28mm, and, a more blunt nose, and the clincher is tubeless compatible. Easton has also redesigned their EA90 SLX into a wider, tubeless-compatible aluminum rim. And the new Easton wheels sport new hubs, the Echo, which relies on standard straight-pull spokes. Ritchey is debuting a wide, shallow-section aluminum clincher, the Zeta II and is tubeless-compatible. The roll on Phantom hubs, which look flangeless but have internal flanges so that the wheels are built with J-bend spokes.
For the people who long for wide rims to build into their favorite hubs, American Classic is now selling a wide, shallow, tubeless compatible rim. The AC RD 2218. Being American Classic, the rim is light, 375g, and currently available in 24 and 28 drilling.
Classic Bars are the New Black
Classic-bend drop handlebars are coming back. The long loopy drops of old are being updated with short reach and shallow bends. Zipp and Ritchey have newly-designed classic bends, taking a similar route to Shimano’s classic bend bars. On the other hand, FSA’s, and 3T’s, and Deda’s longstanding classic drops are plying the older, longer and lower bends. Also of note is that cable grooves seem to be disappearing from aluminum bars. A Ritchey rep told us it was what the pro’s requested because it adds more to grip on the tops. A Zipp rep told us it allowed them to make the bars lighter and stiffer.
Massive Data Integration is the New Black
SRM came to the show with their new PowerControl 8 head unit, set to be released in 2014. A slick touch screen that has sensors rather than relying on warm fingertips is just the beginning. The unit is also working with GPS where you can tune the accuracy by selecting the number of satellites, or turn it off to increase battery life. And they’re adding the metrics popularized by Allen/Coggan—normalized power, IF and TSS. And more. It will work with all ANT+ power meters and connect to both Bluetooth and WiFi. It will be waterproof, and even have a small speaker.
Wahoo Fitness is also expanding its offerings. Their smartphone-based software company is going in a zillion directions—using your smartphone to record and push data to social media, to training programs, and integrating it with a trainer. At the Wahoo booth, they had a Wahoo-based trainer, the Kickr, hooked up to a software partner, Kinomap, where you can watch a geolocated video (quick, get a Virb) that has the elevation data interpreted to resistance and sent to a trainer so you can ride what you’re watching—and even try to keep up or exceed the pace that the person filming it did. You can also use the trainer to ride or race Strava segments.
Topeak is also working the Bluetooth/smartphone angle with their PanoBike App and system, which also includes handlebar- and stem-mounted cases, Bluetooth transmitters, and an app that not only serves as the computer, but a diary and can work with a bike computer.
Bluetooth-transmitting heart rate, speed, cadence sensors, is also a path PowerTap is starting to follow. They’ll have the same, including a PowerTap hub that transmits a Bluetooth signal. This way your smartphone and other Bluetooth-enabled devices, like laptops and tablets, can pick up the signals. CycleOps (part of the same company as PowerTap, but spun into its own division) is also debuting Virtual Training software. Theirs combines both indoors and outdoors, with a heavy social media component and even video. For the indoor, you need one of their PowerBeam or Indoor Cycle units or Wahoo’s Kickr hooked up to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and logged into their Virtual Training site.
CycleOps’ system combines a training dairy with your trainer and social media. Ride routes you’ve done, ride routes others have done and shared, race people on created routes, compete with others on time, mileage, whatever metric you want. And if the one site isn’t enough, your data can easily be shared with social media sites and other training software.
Taking integration in another diretion is BikeSpike. It’s a GPS transmitter that currently is housed in a water bottle cage. The transmitter turns on and sends out signals telling its location. Mate it with your smartphone and it’s a bike computer, it sends the ride BikeSpike’s social media platform, an anti-theft device, and a crash-alert system. If you like keeping tabs on loved one’s riding, you can set a perimeter, and get alerts when the device goes beyond. The device can also tell how the bike is oriented to the ground, and that can work into their platform to a visual that shows how the bike is leaning.
Road Tubeless Tires are not the New Black
Despite the rapidly-increasing number of road tubeless rims on offer, the same cannot be written of road tubeless tires. The choices for tires are not expanding, nor did it seem that the companies selling road tubeless tires are dramatically expanding their offerings.
Road Rotor Disc Brakes are not the New Black
Here, too, there is lots of talk, but little action. Shimano was touting theirs, but it was hard to find a road racing bike equipped with them, other than a Colnago that Shimano was carting around. SRAM seemed a bit more measured, coming with a fleet of Specializeds, but focusing on their Hydro-R, hydraulic rim brakes, rather than their Hydro-D, hydraulic disc brakes. Most of the road bikes that were equipped with discs were of the “gravel grinder” variety, save the BMC GF01, which is kind of a racing version of a gravel grinder, carbon-fiber but with a beefy fork and massive chain stays.
It’s in looking back through my hundreds of photos that I begin to gain perspective on what Interbike was such a whirlwind of brief encounters. I rarely took notes because often my visits were so brief that I had to choose either notes or photos. There simply wasn’t time for both. It helps me comprehend how I can be 10 days out from my return home and still be writing about the event. Even though I’m ready to move past it and back to reviewing some products that I didn’t get to before I left for the show, I saw so much that I liked and don’t want to leave out.
I went for a ride on the Stromer, BMC’s electric bike. For those not familiar with it, the Stromer hails from the same category of throttle-less bikes as the Specialized Turbo.
The battery, rather than being contained in a rack in back is ensconced in the down tube. It makes sense, as it’s huge and heavy. It’s hard to get that much weight down low to help the bike’s handling.
The bike computer gives standard rider data and acts as the selector for which assistance mode the Stromer is in. The bike weighs more than a cargo ship, but it handles extraordinarily well. I wish my parents were younger; I’d introduce them to electric bikes.
Shimano introduced a new fitting system. Fit purists knocked it for not being as advanced as the Serotta or Specialized systems. Parts of the system are based on somewhat antiquated views of fit.
The fit system includes the ability to analyze a rider’s pedal stroke to detect leg strength discrepancies.
Even if the Shimano system isn’t the ideal fit system, it strikes me that it could improve fit for many riders. Many riders out there would benefit from an improved fit. Forget perfect; many riders just need a better fit and given their incredible market penetration, Shimano could help many riders achieve a better position on the bike, which would improve their bike handling, their efficiency and their comfort.
Feedback Sports, the folks known for repair stands and scales, introduced a new wall hook system that allows you to hang a bike and then swing it toward the wall to reduce the amount of space needed. Why has it taken so long for someone to dream this up?
Abus was showing a series of locks that feature six pivots to allow them to accommodate unusual rack or bike configurations. I’ve been doing more errand-running by bike and have been amazed at the number of times I’ve needed to punt and just put the lock on the bike without securing it to a rack, sometimes because there was no rack, sometimes because the lock simply wouldn’t accommodate both bike and rack at the same time.
Ritchey remains the leader in bar shapes. No one else offers more bends in both carbon and aluminum than Ritchey; why they don’t get more love from fitters baffles me.
After getting out of the tire biz for a bit, Ritchey is back with a number of new tires at terrific price points. At $20, this is the least expensive folding tire I can recall seeing from a reputable brand.
Guru showed off their new bike fitting system. Components can be switched quickly and CompuTrainer integration means that a rider can be asked to pedal under load or pedal stroke analysis. The saddle and bar assemblies are motorized so that adjustments to fit and fast and don’t require the rider to dismount.
The system performs an anatomic capture without requiring reflective dots being placed on the rider’s legs, shoulders and arms.
The system also provides the rider with the opportunity to pedal on a grade, so you can analyze how well they perform once the road tips up.
Giro showed off some new pieces in their New Road line including new shorts and tops.
Existing pieces got some new colors.
One of my faves was this new polo shirt.
This button down looks smart and won’t become a clammy cotton rag.
I can say with some certainty that my favorite product introduced at this year’s Interbike show that I actually got to ride, as opposed to just staring at, was the new Shimano road hydraulic disc brakes. It’s become popular for people attending the show to say, “You know, I didn’t see anything that wowed me.” That’s been the cool kid thing to say ever since Americans decided that Eurobike was the cool show. I think it’s damned cynical.
This brake system wowed me. I don’t see any point in lying. Two years ago I was arguing against disc brakes on road bikes as causing more problems than they solve. The thing is, I’m not an engineer, especially not a motivated one, but I understand the thrill of problem solving, and that’s mostly what engineering is.
For those of you who have been pulling on jerseys since they were wool, you’ll recall that Colnago was once the place to look for all the most forward-thinking ideas, even if some of them were crazier than Hunter Thompson at Burning Man. It was nice to see the storied Italian brand embrace disc brake tabs and internal routing for the hydraulic brake lines, though I could hear people crying foul to see Shimano parts on the Italian legend. That didn’t bother me, but what did make me chuckle was seeing such forward-looking technology on a bike that was glued together.
The brake set is non-series, which is to say that they are neither Dura-Ace nor Ultegra. That gives product managers the opportunity to use this brake with either group without it looking wholly out of place.
The brakes can be used with either a 140mm or 160mm rotor. The Colnago I rode was equipped with 140mm rotors. There’s been a concern within the industry about using 140mm rotors and heat buildup. You’ll notice that the rotors above feature two different colors. The outer ring of material, the portion of the rotor the pads actually grab is, of course, steel, but that inner ring is aluminum which, by virtue of the fact that aluminum isn’t very dense, allows for speedy heat dissipation.
The brakes themselves also feature fins to help them function as heat sinks. Shimano went to a number of far-flung locations for product testing, including the Stelvio Pass (at this point it seems like you can’t claim to have tested a brake system until you’ve been to the Stelvio), so when they say that heat buildup won’t be a problem with a 140mm rotor, we’ve got some reason to take them at their word.
This detail of the rotor shows the pairing of steel and aluminum to increase heat dissipation.
The lever has a couple of advantages over SRAM’s lever. First, of course, are the improved ergonomics. Shimano went with the Di2 electronic shifting so they could gain valuable space in the lever for the hydraulic master cylinder, which is why the lever looks big but not tumescent. The lever also allows for reach adjustment as well as throw or free-stroke, which is how far the lever travels before the pads engage. These are two important adjustments that help keep the system feeling as much like a traditional rim brake system as possible. Because Shimano has made hydraulic systems for a variety of applications, from cross country to downhill, they were able to select components to increase modulation without compromising power.
My experience in limited riding on the system was impressive. With a 140mm rotor, power was on a par with rim brake systems. Modulation was terrific and felt more easily controlled than with some brakes I’ve used.
I’ve been vocal in my opposition to disc brakes. I haven’t seen the need. The maintenance is more complicated, the system is heavier, the aerodynamics compromised and the increased demand in frame strength changes the flex in the frame. I still think all those issues are, well, still issues. However, one criticism that can’t be leveled at the brakes is that they don’t work. They absolutely do and it may be that with some experience riders using them will find greater control thanks to them.
Cyclops showed a new trainer interface that allows you to ride over videoed courses. You’ll have to put together the big-ass monitor set-up yourself. but it dials up wattage on the hills and changes the speed of the video relative to your speed. Tacx has a similar unit, but this one appears easier to operate. Maybe we’ll get a chance to find out.
Saris was showing off a new hitch-mount rack that comes in two and four-bike configurations.
It, like the Thule, comes with locks integrated into the rack. I wouldn’t leave bikes on the rack overnight in Fresno, but it should do an adequate job of keeping honest people honest.
Shimano showed off the new 11-speed Ultegra group. My sense from my limited chance to play with the group is that this is the closes that Ultegra has ever been in performance to Dura-Ace. The difference in the two levers is fairly negligible.
The crank uses the same asymmetric bolt pattern found in Dura-Ace. It’s a look I still haven’t fallen in love with.
The longer parallelogram of the front derailleur and the lines of the rear derailleur only reinforce the the impression that this is a heavier version of Dura-Ace.
For anyone who had a difficult time justifying the extra expense of Dura-Ace previously will find it much harder to do now.
Shimano also introduced a new apparel line. It’s not meant to go after the upper end of the market and compete with Assos and Rapha. Rather, it’s meant to be another affordable alternative for shops.
In addition to a line of clothes for the road, they also showed apparel for mountain biking as well.
Shimano showed some new hydration packs. This one intrigued me because of its relatively small size. It’s ideal for rides in the two to three-hour range.
Most hard-shell helmets, such as the ones worn in skateboarding, are known for being long on durability, but short on protection. Bell has undertaken a novel approach to using EPS foam in a hard-ish shell helmet.
The shell is flexible and populated with multiple sections of EPS , making it able to take a variety of abuses.
I imagine the helmets made with this new approach will give parents at least two or three different kinds of peace of mind.
The Belkin team wore this aero road helmet at the Tour de France (the hot new term for them is “sprint helmet”). Bell was showing it but indicated that this helmet won’t be put into production. They were showing it off as an indication of things to come.
Blackburn undertook a pretty radical reexamination of the brand’s identity and priorities this past year. The upshot is a reinvigorated focus on bags and racks. Among the new products was a locking rack so that when you lock up your bike, you can rest assured that the bags will stay put.
This new rack is stronger than a skunk’s odor and more adaptable than a character actor. I confess that I failed to take any pictures of the bags. My excuse if Friday afternoon lameness. The Blackburn line impressed me enough to make me fantasize about everything from grocery shopping to loaded touring.
In addition to showing off the new 810 computer, Garmin was showing off this new GPS-enabled video camera. It would be an ideal way to record video for the Cyclops trainer interface above.
Co-Motion introduced a new model, the Klatch, aimed at the emerging gravel-grinder category. This bike paired a Shimano drivetrain with TRP’s cable-actuated, double-cylinder hydraulic disc brakes. The frame easily has clearance enough for 32mm tires.
Co-Motion has had a reputation for excellent finishes dating back to the 1990s. This Macchiato pays homage to the Gulf racing team. It was arguably one of the most beautiful bikes I saw at the show.
It’s vaguely amazing to me that tandem companies have waited so long to do really powerful graphic treatments on their bikes.
Stan’s introduced a new 29z-inch carbon fiber mountain bike wheel that showed impressive strength and stiffness numbers while maintaing weight low enough to make it raceable.
Nalini, the Italian apparel manufacturer that is that seems to make more clothing for companies that it does under its own name, was displaying some impressive wool pieces. The construction techniques weren’t strictly old-school, though. The jersey had a reasonably long zipper—the longest possible given the chest pockets—and a gripper on the hem to keep it in place.
They also showed a matching set of wool bibs that had a Lycra bib sewn into them.
Even the pad looked like an old-school chamois. However, this is a current pad that is simply covered in a microfiber to make it look and feel like chamois.
A few companies have begun to show rain jerseys that offer a bit of insulation and some sort of wind and rain-stopping fabric while sticking with short sleeves.
The Nalini jersey featured grommets to allow water to drain from the pockets in the event of a Southern-style deluge.
This Bianchi celebrates the 80th anniversary of Campagnolo. This is the bike that Bianchi will be presenting to Valentino Campagnolo.
Not only does it sport an 80th-anniversary Super Record group, special decals call out the milestone as well.
The combination of the matte finish on both the frame and the components gave it a very choice look.
Honestly, this thing was so gorgeous, it was hard not to drool on the bike.
The new Infinito CV takes Bianchi toward a much cleaner look with fewer swoopy tubes.
The big news on this bike is the Countervail technology Bianchi is using. They are the only bike company using this vibration canceling technology. Based on a video demonstration they had, the materials are fairly effective at subduing vibration. I’m definitely interested to ride this bike.
Speedplay has been making a special pedal for the cobbled races for some time. It forgoes the plastic body normally found on the company’s road pedals. The idea is that it will shed mud more easily should a rider have to get off and walk through some mud, but it is not meant to be a cyclocross pedal as it still uses the traditional Speedplay cleat.
Scott introduced its first bike in the grand touring category, the Solace. It contains a number of visual cues that its designers aimed to make rider comfort a priority. The down tube is flattened near the bottom bracket and the seatstays join the top tube rather than the seat tube in an effort to make them as compliant as possible by increasing their length.
The fork on the Solace uses a slightly unusual design, sweeping the blades slightly forward of the dropouts. The intent is to provide a bit more flex vertically to increase rider comfort.
Mavic is back in the pedal game. Yes, I know it looks like a Time pedal. They make it under contract for Mavic. Unlike previous Mavic pedals, this one weighs less than a bunch of grapes and has more cornering clearance than a little boy’s hips.
Guru has introduced a new frame, the Photon HL. While a great many manufacturers lead with frame weight, Guru has something a bit different. The Photon HL comes in custom geometry. Only custom geometry.
The layup work belongs to an emerging cohort of carbon builders—it’s an exceedingly short list; the only other ones I’ve seen so far are Alchemy and Argonaut. The frame is bejeweled with tiny pieces of carbon that speak to layup work that isn’t just deliberate, it’s artful.
For me, this frame was the single biggest revelation of the show.
Enve introduced some new budget-oriented builds for the 25s, 45s and 65s. They sourced different spokes and hubs without changing the rims in order to bring the cost down.
Enve also introduced a new set of disc brake hubs that are now an option for the SES series wheels.
Currently, there aren’t that many options for aerodynamic carbon wheels with disc brakes, but then maybe that’s because the demand for them isn’t quite what it is for carbon fiber frames.
Moots introduced a new model, the rather aptly named Vamoots Disc Road. It’s a gravel grinder that was gifted great tire clearance and disc brakes.
It’s spec’d with an Enve fork with a steerer that tapers from 1 1/8″ to 1 1/2″ for great strength and precise steering.
The folks at Moots made a battery holder for the Di2 battery to place it inside the seatpost. The build used a Dura-Ace Di2 group combined with Shimano’s new road disc brakes. One of my favorite bikes of the show.
If all you ever do is write about road bikes, you miss out on stuff like this cruiser from Electra. It’s as much a fashion statement as it is transportation, but it’s a fun chance to point out that we, as dedicated cyclists, can incorporate a city bike into our lives for running errands and it can make a fun and entertaining statement at the same time.
When I was a kid I wanted to replace the grips on my Raleigh Chopper with some cool ones that sparkled. These orange ones from Electra would have been ideal. They speak to the many accessories that Electra produces that not only look good but often trade on a bit of nostalgia, and while I’m not a big fan of nostalgia, this is one time when it’s not just harmless, it’s fun.
The Electra electric Townie goes for less than many road bikes. At $2200, it’s not cheap, but this bike, and others of its ilk, is probably our best shot at recruiting more people into cycling. As the roads become ever more clogged with cars, we need all the sympathy and allies we can find. Electric bikes may be our best shot at making more friends.
The Townie comes with a dynamo front hub that powers a headlight. Nifty feature.
Focus unleashed a new road bike, the Izalco Max. This new bike is less a revision of the Izalco than a whole new bike. They’ve trimmed the tube shapes to just the structural essentials. It’s interesting that as bike engineers become more knowledgeable about bike design certain elements become more and more consistent, such as tiny seatstays, round top and down tubes and tapered forks.
This bike may look a bit familiar. Gone are any unusual tube shapes and the seatstays have been shrunken to not much more than the thickness of a pinky for good reason; those tiny stays do make the ride more comfortable.
What did surprise me about the new Izalco Max was just how tiny the fork blades were. My first guess would be that this fork would be comfortable but not handle well, but I’m told it has the precise steering we’ve come to expect from bikes ridden at the WorldTour level.
Socks are the candy bars of the cycling world. They are sugary, diverse and offer an ever-changing array of flavors. Each year someone at Interbike shows a pair of socks that captures some essential zeitgeist. This year, as it is most years, Sock Guy gets my nod for the best socks I have seen at the show. You can consider these an open letter to Valdimir Putin for his stance on gay athletes. They ought to sell by the million. I need to mention that while I’ve always liked Sock Guy socks, I mostly wore them with sneakers because they were so thick. These, however, are thin enough to fit along with your foot inside a tight pair of cycling shoes.
Xpedo has been doing great work in the pedal market and yesterday they were quietly showing a functional prototype of a wattage pedal. While they were willing to talk target pricing for it (which didn’t make me gasp), they aren’t ready to allow that to be published just yet. The system is promising if only for the fact that once you install or remove the pedal, no additional work is required; there are no additional parts to worry about.
BMC showed off a new edition of the Team Machine that I’m told has been lightened significantly without sacrificing comfort or stiffness. Road feel is said to be improved, which fits with my general experience with what happens when you remove material from a frame.
BMC also had disc-brake editions of the Gran Fondo. This is the GF02—the aluminum bike, which I’m told is every bit as compliant as the carbon version.
I’d call B.S. were it not for the fact that these seatstays are just as tiny as the carbon ones.
This is the new EC90 carbon wheel from Easton. This wheel is the first to put together aerodynamics, a wide rim profile, carbon clincher and tubeless. It’s a total no-brainer at least as far as appeal. The last time I was this excited to ride a wheel was following the introduction of the Zipp Firecrest line.
The carbon layup work on this wheel was remarkable. This is definitely the first carbon fiber rim bead that seemed capable of holding on to a road tubeless tire. And as I mentioned on Monday, the new hubs seem to have a design that will put previous bearing issues to rest. More than any other product I saw, these left me with the desire to commit a felony.
Pearl Izumi showed off lots of new apparel as you’d expect, but this new chamois caught my eye. The surface of the chamois itself was remarkably smooth, rather than, well, bumpy from lots of different foam profiles. The idea was to create something that would contact your skin more naturally and lay flat against your skin more easily, rather than just relying on the compression of the bibs.
These are the new P.R.O. In-R-Cool bibs in which the new pad will be used.
Among a great many other items I saw that I liked, this mountain bike kit was pretty interesting. I’m not huge on baggy shorts; it just doesn’t make much sense to me, but if you can have shorts that conceal the Lycra and still offer a fairly tailored fit, I can see the point. The zippers for ventilation at the front of the legs made immediate sense. The jacket was really well-cut and looked to be breathable enough so the inside didn’t turn into a hothouse.
Cervelo has revamped both the R3 and the S3.
Previously, when Cervelo has offered a revision of a lower model following big gains in a flagship model, the result has been a lighter, livelier ride. I should be able to get on both these bikes this winter. I’ve liked the R3 and thought it did a better job of replicating the ride of the top bike than most companies manage. The question now is just how much the ride of the S3 has been improved.
Primal Wear does a lot, nay, a metric ton of charity ride jerseys. I figured they just gave good pricing to the folks running these events. I was wrong about that. It turns out they donate a stunning amount of money to charity events each year, paying the charities a small royalty each time a jersey is sold. Based on what I was told, I estimate it’s somewhere in the mid-six-figure range.
They were showing two new base layers that will combine Primal’s penchant for affordability with their ability to source soft, breathable fabrics.
One of the things I most love about Primal Wear’s apparel is their ability to produce simple pieces that are both comfortable and affordable. So often, when I see stuff that seems a bargain, like this $60 jersey, they will be hamstrung by stiff threads or material that doesn’t breath well. This was a refreshing display of careful design and sourcing.
While brevity isn’t what most folks come to RKP for, these posts are necessarily brief and incomplete for two reasons: 1) the limited amount of time I have between walking out of the show and walking back in. There will be plenty more posts to come.