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.
This year, the Interbike show has moved to a new venue. Even though it’s still all the same (most of the same) companies inside, everyone I spoke to admitted that they were getting lost in the show and often walking in the wrong direction. It’s definitely a first-world problem, but until I was lead through the door as the show closed this evening, I couldn’t have told you which way was north, even with a compass and a map.
There are a lot of clothing manufacturers that have significant history in the cycling industry. DeMarchi has been around since Italy’s reconstruction after the Second World War. While there have been some companies doing faux replicas of old jerseys, DeMarchi is the only company still in existence that was doing the high-end embroidered wool way back when. They’ve brought that quality of work back. They are featuring two lines that give people a chance to have that classic work. The Bottecchia jersey pictured above features the classic tube construction with set-in sleeves, hand embroidery and mother-of-pearl buttons. And at $250, they are undercharging for it.
The jersey above is a cotton piece that blends the look of the collared jersey with an easy to care for cotton fabric. It’s a piece I think I’d be more likely to wear with jeans than on the bike.
The DeMarchi family owns Cytech, the makers of the elastic interface chamois. The bibs featured above and below incorporate a proprietary pad that uses four layers of foam sandwiched together, to offer a chamois that presents what I’m told is an unusual degree of comfort for days that may go longer than six horus.
The bibs come in several colors and all of them feature a very breathable mesh to keep them dry on long days.
Gore apparel continues to surprise and impress me because of how well-thought-out so many of their products are. This jersey began its life as a kind of backpack. The white ‘V’ of fabric is cut from a material that features very little stretch. The idea was that those panels might function as straps to keep the jersey pockets from sagging down like a skirt if you loaded them up. While the jersey wasn’t a great fit for the mannequin, it was obvious that the design kept the overstuffed pockets from sagging to the floor.
Same jersey, different color way, from the front.
This short sleeve jersey from Gore features Windstopper for spring and fall conditions, or even winter conditions in more temperate places when combined with Gore’s Windstopper arm warmers.
The Lake CX237 had a really clean, classic look. It featured an upper cut from genuine leather and used a double BOA closure system. The amazing thing was that as I was admiring how handsome this shoe is, I was told it wasn’t the top of the line.
I’m fortunate not to need a winter shoe, but this Lake winter shoe looks like a rather instant life-improvment scheme.
Chrome was showing this Merino wool pullover. It had a high collar, a great half zipper and thumb loops to keep the sleeves down as you ride. It reminded me of cotton pullovers I have in that it was super soft and didn’t attract attention, but this could be a stunningly versatile top in a rider’s wardrobe.
Chrome is offering a new bag perfect for racers. The netting on the outside is ideal for separating dirty clothes from clean ones and for carrying your helmet.
Sugoi was showing a new shell for rainy conditions. They had a little demonstration set up to show the difference between most waterproof fabrics and the material used in this piece. They had a pump bulb attached to hose to allow you to try to push air through the membrane of their jacket and another popular waterproof material.
This shot shows air bumbles pushing right through the jacket, but when you weren’t pumping air through, impressively, the water volume wasn’t decreasing from water draining through the jacket. I’ll definitely be reviewing this.
Brevity isn’t our usual approach, but I just want to get you an introduction to some of the things we’ve seen that impressed us. This is, to some degree, simply a heads-up on many items I’m interested to review next year. By no means is this all I saw, but it’s all I have time to write about before heading back to the show.
In the 15 years I’ve been coming to Las Vegas for Interbike, I cannot recall a year where the conditions were more inhospitable for riding than today and yesterday. One set of reports I saw put yesterday’s high temperature at 106 degrees, while today’s dropped a single degree but added a steady wind that could gust north of 15 mph. Not many things can dampen my enthusiasm for bikes, but feeling like I’m sitting in the oven along with the pizza I’m cooking isn’t conducive to bike riding. I didn’t ride as much today as I wanted or expected to, but the upside is that it gave me more time to talk with people.
Zipp had a couple of announcements. They revamped their Service Course bars to make them a bit more intuitive for fitters. There are three bars, all of which feature a flatter drop to the levers—the SL70 has the shortest reach of the bunch and is bound to be popular with riders who want to run a long stem. The SL80 has an 80mm reach, while the SL88, pictured above has the longest reach and a slightly modified take on the classic bend. I stopped using a classic bend bar even before Greg LeMond retired and can’t stand them now, but the bend on this bar is opening up just enough I can get my hand in there comfortably.
The 808 received a new hub that is supposed to be much stiffer than the previous one. It features virtual three-cross lacing, new larger bearing and plenty of input from Mark Cavendish.
Zipp says the change in the ride experience for the rider will be that the wheel will be much stiffer laterally without picking up any additional stiffness vertically. And for really powerful sprinters who have complained about the wind-up of Zipp wheels, this new 808 addresses that issue square-on.
There weren’t a lot of titanium bikes at the show, but I decided I wanted to try to ride each of the different frame materials once during the Outdoor Demo. I dropped by Litespeed and checked out the T1. This is produced from 6Al/4v and while this is meant to be the successor to Litespeed’s Archon model, it is also true that this is their flagship metal bike and in that it reminded me of the old Vortex, both in terms of stiffness and handling.
The chainstays are asymmetric, and while engineer Brad Devaney did a fine job of explaining just why they chose to build the bike around two different chainstays, the explanation will have to wait for a full review of the bike. It was a delight to ride.
To make the bike easy to build up with current parts and to give it as many performance attributes found in the current carbon bikes, Litespeed went with a BB30 bottom bracket.
It’s also easier to increase front-end stiffness if you’re not building around a straight 1 1/8″ fork. The T1 uses a fork that tapers from 1 1/8″ at the stem to 1 1/2″ at the fork crown. This was easily the stiffest ti bike I’ve ridden to date.
I’ve been dying to ride Felt’s redesign AR model since seeing it at their global product launch back in August. One of the reasons Felt has been such a great value at the mid and low end of the market is their price-point bikes come out of the same mold their high-end bikes do. This bike is the AR4; it’s exactly the same frame as the AR FRD, except for the material used. So while it didn’t offer quite the road sensitivity that their high-end bikes do, this is an Ultegra-equipped bike that retails for $3499. And honestly, some companies’ top bikes offer no more sensitivity than this one does.
The AR uses an unusual seat post and clamp that pinches not the post itself, but the walls of the post, allowing them to make an exceedingly thin-walled seatpost that doesn’t need to withstand crushing forces. The point is to increase rider comfort. I will say that this bike was stunningly stiff in out-of-the-saddle efforts. However, I wasn’t able to get much of a feel for how much comfort it offered because the road surface I was riding on was pretty smooth. And, frankly, I cut my ride short because there was a steady 10 mph wind that was gusting to 20 mph. An aero bike with aero wheels wasn’t dynamite, but truly, it was so bad out there that any bike riding wasn’t much fun. Where’s my Visine?
The large bottom bracket area not only helps smooth the wind’s flow over the lower part of the bike but helped give it the stiffness necessary to stand up to hard sprints. And because the rear brake was mounted to integrated posts, the braking offered terrific power and sensitive modulation.
There’s plenty more we saw at Outdoor Demo and more posts will be coming. Contributor JP Partland rode a great many bikes as well, so this won’t be the end of the ride reports.
Do you remember that Coyote and Road Runner cartoon where Wile E. Coyote purchases the Acme rocket sled only to shoot up into the stars upon ignition and explode, thus turning into a constellation of an archer? Well that’s what it feels like to climb out of the car in the dusty gravel parking lot at Bootleg Canyon. No matter how well you have planned, there is always a sense (for me at least) of, “Ohmigod, where do I start?”
This year after grabbing my credentials and saying a few hellos, I headed to Shimano’s air conditioned tent (bless their blue souls) for the introduction of their new line of mountain bike shoes. The new shoe brings Shimano’s Custom-Fit technology to the off-road world. While I haven’t molded them yet, I installed a set of cleats and decided to walk around in them a bit and ride in them to see how stable they felt when walking on gravel and if they felt good while on the bike. They were surprisingly comfortable both on the bike and off. Expect a review of these.
I’ve long liked Easton wheels for the quality of their builds. Every set of wheels from them I’ve ever ridden stayed remarkably true. However, a couple of them did have issues with bearings, and while the more recent wheels I’ve ridden have been trouble-free, I know that others have not been as fortunate. For 2014, Easton has completely redesigned their hubs to eliminate bearing preload problems and solve the problem with bearings wearing out prematurely.
The entire freehub body has been redesigned and among the new features is a headset bearing that allows the pawls to engage after only seven degrees of rotation. The old carbon wheels have been eliminated in favor of one new wheel which they are reporting is the fastest wheel on the market. You can see the wheels on the Calfee below. They say their wind tunnel testing shows they are faster than the Zipp Firecrest 404s, and the Enve 6.7s.
Easton is running a promotion, about which you can get details on our Facebook page, that will give you a chance to win a dream bike. Among the bikes are this Calfee Manta Pro, plus bikes from Rock Lobster, Black Cat and others.
The Calfee features rear suspension. I’m told it has 12mm of travel, which may not be the 120mm of some mountain bikes, was still enough to soften the bumps in the road. This seems to be a very new design and while it certain did what it purported, there was some twisting in the wishbone when I was out of the saddle that caused the rear brake to rub.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to look at a Calfee up close and they continue to be beautiful bikes that are exceedingly well crafted. The touch of the internally routed brake cable was something I’ve not seen before.
When I see Craig Calfee at the show later this week, I’ll be asking him just how this suspension works. It’s unusual looking, but it was effective.
In my many years on this planet I never enjoyed the opportunity to ride a Rock Lobster until today. I’ve got a host of friends who are big fans of Paul Sadoff’s work; some of them own multiple Rock Lobsters. This was one of the other dream bikes that’s a part of the Easton contest.
This road bike was built from Easton Scandium tubing. It’s been perhaps as many as 10 years since I last rode a Scandium frame and I’d forgotten just how good they feel. For a moment out on the road, I though the bike was steel. At least, I did until I looked again at the weld bead. This was a surprisingly light bike and felt smooth in a way I just don’t associate with aluminum.
Says it all.
I got pretty excited about the BMC TMR01 at last year’s show when it was unveiled. I finally had the chance to ride one today. It was a very fast ride. No one confuses Mavic carbon Cosmics with the fastest wheels around, but they are definitely faster than a box rim. I’d put it in the same class of aero bikes with the Cervelo S5 and Litespeed C1R and ahead of the Specialized Venge.
With the front brake shrouded and the rear brake tucked up under the bottom bracket, this bike has a distinct advantage over some bikes aerodynamically.
My initial impression was that this bike isn’t so stiff to rattle your brain and offers better sensitivity to the road surface than most aero road bikes. I’ve requested one of these for an in-depth review. Honestly, I think it’s the most interesting bike BMC makes, and they make many interesting bikes.
For Part I, click here.
As I mentioned near the opening of this review, the C1R was part of that rare group of bikes in which I noticed the extra complement of speed provided by the aerodynamics in the first mile of riding it. I tell you, if you ride enough different bikes, the one with significantly improved aerodynamics will call attention to itself. Think Ford GT40 pulling away from a stoplight.
There was a short window earlier this year—prior to the birth of the Deuce—when my form was fair adjacent. I wasn’t actually fast, but I was fit enough to get to the front of the rides I did, even if I did blow up almost as soon as I got there. At least I could get there. With the aid of the C1R and a set of Zipp 404s, I had the ability to get to the front, do a brief pull and then get out of the way before blowing up. As achievements go, it was as dubious as a Wall Street broker claiming to save souls, but the difference for my own riding was too great to be ignored. The combination of frame and wheels was worth about as six weeks of training. It was as remarkable a change as the difference I’d experience from when I’d decide it was time to knuckle down on my training and that first day when I’d think, “Hey, we’re making progress here!”
That change takes about six weeks for most folks, me included.
My review bike was a large; it had a 57cm top tube, parallel 73-degree seat and head tube angles, 4.3cm of fork rake and 6.8cm of BB drop for neutral handling. The front center on this bike was a longish 59.8cm while the chainstays are a rather short 39.5cm. If that long front center and short chainstay design sounds familiar to any geo geeks out there, they ought to. This bike is the heir apparent to the old Litespeed Ultimate, arguably the most beloved bike Litespeed ever built. The C1R is offered only as a frameset. It goes for a very reasonable $2999. The C1, Ci2 and C3 are all offered as complete bikes and even the best spec’d C1 is only $5299.
Because so many riders seem so resistant to the idea that aerodynamics can make a significant difference in performance, I keep working to think of new ways to convey the extra speed. My initial rides on an aero road bike, on the Cervelo SLC-SL, was one of those Candid Camera moments, an occasion was so significantly out of whack with my normal experience that I doubted perception and nearly wondered if someone was messing with me. Fast forward a year and the same thing happened on the Felt AR. Then with the Cervelo S5.
Think about the difference you feel between sitting up with your hands on the top of the bar and then what you gain when you put your hands in the drops. Yeah, well an aero road bike is worth even more. It is easily worth a cog, sometimes more.
Now, we all know the knocks against aero road bikes. Riding one is like playing jockey to a jackhammer; they twist like Chubby Checker, and they offer all the road feedback of a couch cushion. Helluva pitch. Like trying to sell someone a box of ticks.
Imagine my surprise when I got on the C1R and it didn’t ride like I was doing laps over railroad tracks. I’m about to review a traditional road bike that has a harsher ride than the C1R. It’s no Specialized Roubaix, but I’d put it in a range of comfort on a par with almost anything rolling on 25s, or a fuzzy robe. The road sensitivity was a shocker, too. Wall thickness was kept to a minimum in the midsections to help transmit more high frequency vibration while the lack of paint or 3k weave cut down on the deadening effect of coating a frame in non-structural material. This thing is yet another argument for bike companies going to the extra expense to use materials like high modulus carbon fiber with resin infused with carbon nanotubes.
The engineer responsible for this bike, Brad Devaney, told me that the integrated seat post was a real point of conversation on the C-series bikes. He said he was determined not to let an ISP dictate the ride quality of the bike. Even so, he says the C1R will move to an aero seat post for 2014.
Brad also told me that wind tunnel testing confirmed that this bike gives riders a greater aerodynamic edge than a set of Zipp Firecrest 404s. That’s a bunch of free speed. Combined with a set of 404s and your friends will be inclined to kid that you need to pee in a cup. Trust me. On a long run out the coast to the far reaches of Malibu I found myself doing 24 into the wind on a false flat and I was only riding at a moderate tempo. Given my fitness at the time I estimate that’s 3 mph faster than what I would have done on a regular road bike with box-rim wheels. I was enjoying myself. Friends were coming up to me to comment on how well I was riding. Look, when you’re friends bother to comment on how well you’re going, when it’s so noticeable that they feel a need to comment, well that is all the independent confirmation I need.
As disclosures go, I should make clear that Brad and I go way back. Summer of 1989. We worked on two sides of a Park repair stand at the Peddler Bike Shop in Memphis, Tennessee. Brad was majoring in engineering at the university across the street and any time we ran into a thorny mechanical problem, something we couldn’t figure out how to resolve, we turned it over to him. He had a rare combination for insight into materials science, logical thinking and creative problem solving, even among a shop full of competent bike mechanics. I have a soft spot for his work because I really believe in him. He’s a fierce competitor with a gentle nature and the natural smile of someone who can give compassion as readily as he receives it. That compromises my impartiality, but if I thought this was a crap bike, I’d never have asked to review it. There are ways to dodge that kind of awkward.
Brad told me that it was important to him to give the C-series bikes lines that flowed, rather than taking a single aero shape and “sweep it from head tube to bottom bracket.” For me, that’s part of the beauty of this bike. One of the points he’s most proud of on this bike though was the concave surface on the down tube where the bottle bosses are. With that shape the bike is actually more slippery with the bottle and cage than it is without it. Yes, according to wind tunnel testing, this bike is slower without the bottle than it is with it.
As I noted previously, the frame’s weight was just a nick over 1kg. That relatively low weight for an aero frame was a big contributor to the ride quality both in overall comfort and road feel. But because it lacked another 200 or 300g in carbon fiber found in some of its competitors, this bike did flex some under out-of-the-saddle efforts. I’d compare it favorably to that first generation of oversized steel. You could move it around some in a sprint, but not enough to disturb the handling. However, descending was the one occasion when the bike’s tube shapes and low weight came up as something other than diamonds. On tight, technical descents, the bike lacked the crisp carving of the current generation of American carbon fiber road frames. It wasn’t sloppy the way the French carbon fiber stuff used to be, but it just wasn’t quite as precise as what I’m used to and that was enough for me to sit up a bit and scrub some speed with my torso.
It was on big, exposed descents, ones where cross winds can push you a bit that exposed the C1R’s greatest weakness. The constellation of C1R, Zipp 404s and cross wind created an oscillation that caused me some puckering. It wasn’t a typical high-speed wobble, but arguing fine points on the particular flavor of wobble isn’t really necessary. I suspect this bike would be a problem in the Front Range of Colorado and a few other mountainous places where you can encounter stiff winds.
That’s, what, maybe five percent of the United States? Most places I rode, most places I might ever ride, this bike handled perfectly fine. Even in crosswinds on the flat it wasn’t a problem. It was only after my speed was up over 40 mph and there was a crosswind that there was a problem. When I switched out the from 404 for a 202 the issue was cut considerably.
The lesson for me was that we’re at a point where all aero road bikes give up something. All of them. The S5 beats you to death. The Venge gives up a bit of speed to offer better handling and not quite as much pistol-whipping of your undercarriage. The C1R is the only aero road bike that gave up some torsional stiffness to gain ride quality and comfort. I don’t have any objective data to confirm that it’s as fast as the S5, but it is at least in the same class. As a result, for those considering an aero road bike, the C1R is a real alternative. A different approach to a common problem. This is easily my favorite aero bike I’ve ridden so far.
When I think about the riding I used to do in Tennessee, lots of flat roads that run straight for miles at a time, I appreciate just what a daily asset this bike could be. Man, if I wanted to race again, I’d train on a steel bike with box rims and then race this on the weekends. With this bike I could break stuff—legs, wills, records.
Let’s be honest, if you’re going to try to revamp what everyone thinks cycling clothing is or needs to be, you can’t just dispense with the padded short. There are too many of us who know the truth. And as a guy, once you’ve experienced the non-migratory comfort of the bib short , anything else is a step backward. I don’t want to understate what a serious problem I think this is. I think it would be easier to keep Charlie Sheen off something—hookers, blow, whatever—than to convince me to ride a bike for more than an hour while wearing something other than bibs.
Not gonna happen.
So it is that the most significant piece within Giro’s New Road line is the one you’re least-likely to see: the bibs. The Bib Undershort is meant to be worn beneath a pair of shorts that aren’t exactly baggy, but they aren’t Lycra-tight. All the basics are there—a fit that is as unsurprising as the taste of water, grippers to keep the shorts from riding up, bibs that wick quickly. However, it’s the extras that show you how well-thought-out these are. They have a fly. Think about it: If you’re wearing cycling shorts and over them you’re wearing another pair of shorts so that you don’t have to look like you’re ready for the races, and the shorts have a fly, well why wouldn’t the bibs also have a fly? Am I right? Then there are the pockets at the waist on the shorts. Getting to them is easy enough; just reach your hand beneath the tail of the top you’re wearing and because the openings for the two side pockets are cut at a slight angle, they are easy to access.
The bibs go for $150 and come in six sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL.
Genius doesn’t begin to describe how smart building the apparel around a functional set of bibs is. It’s not just a matter of genius. It’s also a statement of respect, that the product developers at Giro didn’t lose the plot line and still understand that a piece of foam in the crotch is the root of all comfort.
The 40M Tech Overshort is the piece that the public sees. It features a four-way stretch fabric that allows the shorts to move in a pretty natural way. They are gusseted like climbing shorts so you’re not restricted to movement in just two dimensions. There are stretch panels as the waist and in the legs to make sure they move almost as freely as normal cycling shorts. A small strap that attaches to buttons on the inside of the waist band allows you to adjust the waist. There’s a zippered cell-phone pocket on the left, but it’s snug enough that you’re only going to get a smartphone with no protective case in it, at least, if you want to do it comfortably. The zippered fly lines up perfectly with the fly on the bibs, which, I’ll admit, amazed me slightly. I can think of a dozen companies where the fly on one short would have been three inches off of the fly on the other short. My one knock on the fit of the shorts is that the crotch was sufficiently below the waist that when riding, the shorts would ride up a bit. The issue wasn’t one of comfort. On the contrary, the issue was strictly one of appearance. The inseam of the 40M Overshort was just short enough that once they rode up, the black leg grippers of the bibs would show below the hem of the 40M Overshort. Not a big deal, but not perfect, and I note it only because Giro so often manages something approaching perfection.
The 40M Tech Overshort goes for $120, and while I can’t be certain it will outlast all of my cotton shorts, I have been wearing them with regularity and can say they show no signs of wear so far. Frankly, they are terrific to wear with tighty whities; there have been a few occasions I pulled them on because they were at the top of the drawer. I have plenty of stuff that I’m pleased just lasted through this summer. It comes in six waist sizes and two fits: 28, 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38 in both slim and regular fit. I have been wearing the 32 regular fit. They come in three colors: jet black, pewter and desert. The sizes of the 40M Overshort line up with the sizing on the bibs. I’m a 32 in the Overshort and I’m a medium in the bibs.
I did have one minor issue with the Overshort. The distance from the waist to the crotch is a bit long. The way they hand when I’m standing isn’t how they wear when I’m on a bike. They slide up until the crotch of the shorts actually reaches my crotch. This moving around isn’t that disconcerting, but it did end up exposing the grippers of the Bib Undershort because the legs of the shorts were no longer long enough to cover the bibs. Not a big deal, but not quite perfect and Giro so often does perfection, that this detail surprised me.
By basing most of their tops on a high-quality Merino wool Giro does three things. First, they manage to make a technical garment out of a material no one will confuse with a spaceman outfit. Second, they provide the rider with something that wicks well and keeps you comfortable over a broad range of conditions. And third, they manage to hit what has become a common touchpoint for retro cycling cool. Merino is the Teflon of the cycling world in that no criticism of it really sticks. What’s the worst you can say about Merino? That once you’re good and sweaty you smell like a puppy that needs a bath? That the stuff isn’t as cheap as cotton?
Come on, boy, what you got? Bring it!
Merino evokes old-school hardman cycling, hipster alt knowledge and high-end craft, all in a single stop.
Take that Fruit of the Loom!
I’m not going to spend any time talking about the Merino Base Layer. It’s a base layer, cut from a fine Merino. It’s the perfect answer to the changeable day. It was as comfortable as kitten fur, or at least as comfortable as I’ve come to expect from a Merino base and the fit was slim without being snug. And at $60, while not cheap, it’s perfectly reasonable given how pricey some base layers are. It comes in six sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL.
The Ride Jersey relies on 80 percent Merino and weaves in 20 percent polyester to give it stretch without stretching out. Anyone who has ridden in an original Merino jersey knows that you had to buy them a full size smaller than what you needed, otherwise when you put anything larger than a phone number in your pockets the jersey would sag to your thighs, making you look like a cross-dressing spaceman. Been there, done that. Got the looks.
So the Ride Jersey keeps its shape. And it comes with a zipper longer than the one in your jeans. There is also a gripper at the hem to keep it more or less in place when you bend over. Now, if you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see some openings that look a bit like epaulets. Yes, epaulets, which would be really silly on a cycling jersey, which is why these things aren’t epaulets. They aren’t silly. They are vents. They help channel air over the shoulders and to your back, keeping you cooler and speeding drying of the jersey, which cuts down on that whole wet-Lab-smell thing. Honestly, they looked a bit gimmicky when I saw them. Then the first time I got going more than 16 mph, I felt them at work. Not bad.
I’ve been wearing the $150 Ride Jersey in small. It’s available in five sizes: S, M, L. XL and XXL. They could definitely use an XS. If I, a 160-lb. skinny white boy can wear the small, there’s a whole generation of reformed cross-country runners who will be forced to wear nothing but Castelli and Assos due to the Lilliputian sizes they offer.
Finally, I’ve got a piece that’s a slight variation of one of the tops you’ll find on the web site. The SS Merino Crew looks like a tradtional one-pocket T-shirt. However, this is cut from Merino wool and sports not just the chest pocket, but also back pockets. I have a straight-up T-shirt with the one pocket in the front but no pockets in the rear. I absolutely love the T-shirt I have and wear it plenty more than my errand running could demand. I mean, look at that thing. It’s simple and stylish. What’s not to like? Given the crazy amounts of money I’ve dropped on good dress shirts that I wear a handful of times each year, $120 for something of this quality and feel that I’m willing to wear almost weekly seems fair. Like the jersey, this is available in five sizes, S, M, L, XL and XXL.
I’m doing a long ride in the morning. Of all the cycling clothing I have, I can say with some conviction that this stuff isn’t even in contention for what I’ll ride. But in the afternoon, I’m going to go for a ride with #1 son, aka Mini-Shred, Philip. I’m hoping the ride will be more than just a mile or two, and so I plan to wear this for our spin. I’ll be able to hang at the playground and be just as comfortable off the bike as on. That’s no small feat.
The aero road bike is an endeavor unlike anything else in the bike market. While most engineering teams were struggling to make bikes simultaneously stiffer and lighter without sacrificing stiffness, along came Cervelo with the Soloist and created a bike that sacrificed measures of weight and stiffness in exchange for improved aerodynamics. It was like saying juggling a bowling ball, a chainsaw and a newspaper isn’t hard enough, I’m now going to do it blindfolded. And on fire.
Put another way, when you threw the problem of aero road bikes at some of the most talented engineers in the bike industry, it was little different from the challenge of moving from Cat. 3 to the Pro/1/2 field.
What ya got boy?
We’re still early enough in the development of aero road bikes that the results from one company to another vary like the quality of music on the radio. While Cervelo set a high bar in terms of absolute aerodynamics, and has re-set that bar continually with bikes like the S5, one phrase no one has ever uttered is, “My S5 is the most vertically compliant and comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden.”
Somehow, that doesn’t stop Cervelo’s Phil White from wondering why their R5 is so popular. He can’t figure why anyone wouldn’t choose aero over comfort every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I’ve haven’t spent a lot of time talking to the man, but it is endlessly enjoyable, but also fascinating because of his utter bewilderment that people ride bikes not optimized for aerodynamics.
Felt decided to split the difference on comfort and stiffness with the first iteration of their AR model. They gave up some torsional and drivetrain stiffness, but you can finish an 80-mile ride on that bike without needing to soak in a hot tub afterward. Specialized took a similar approach with the Venge.
Last fall at Interbike I encountered Litespeed’s entry in the aero road bike category. On a short hill at the outdoor demo that I’d already descended nearly a dozen times I let the bike roll and it had the unmistakable feel of aero-assisted acceleration that I experience when I switch from box rims to a set of Zipp 404s. I found myself braking a little earlier and harder just before the turn at the bottom and thinking that I still hadn’t scrubbed quite enough speed as I exited the turn. That could have been an embarrassing and expensive screw up. That one experience was enough to make me want to do a full review on a bike.
Litespeed sent me their top-of-the-line frameset for this design, the CR1. My size large (57cm top tube) frame weighed in at 1080g with as much hardware removed as possible and the seat mast intact. Most frames get measured for weight once they are out of the mold and the flashing is removed, but before water bottle bosses, derailleur hangers or any other hardware is added. While I can’t say with certainty the weight of the C1R makes it the lightest of the aero frames out there, what I can say is that it is definitely the lightest of the frames I’ve ridden. There are plenty of non-aero frames that don’t use a seat mast that still can’t hit 1000g. It’s remarkable achievement.
The C1R is available in five sizes. Unfortunately, that’s one less option on sizing than you get with its competition—the Cervelo S5, the Specialized Venge, the Giant Propel or the Felt AR. Practically, what that means is that the Litespeed will be difficult to fit for the smallest and tallest riders. The smallest bike comes with a 52.5cm top tube (37.8cm reach), which is anywhere from 7 to 15mm longer than the others. Similarly, the largest frame has a top tube of 59cm (40.2cm reach), which is conversely 7 to 15mm shorter than the others. The upshot of all this is that the spacing between the sizes is very similar to the other bikes.
Because Litespeed chose different start and end points for their size run, the sizes fall a little differently in my size range. Often I’m looking at a choice between something in the range of a 56.5 or 58.1cm top tube. The ability to choose a 57cm top tube, which is a little closer to idea sizing for me, was a welcome change for me.
Let’s take a moment to give credit where due, or depending on your view, where to lay the blame. This category of road bike simply wouldn’t exist without Cervelo. The Soloist was the first carbon fiber road bike that was specifically designed around aerodynamic properties ahead of all other considerations. As completely fair goes, there were some aluminum road bikes with vaguely aerodynamic shapes (I recall several designs in particular from GT), but the Soloist was the first road bike, i.e., not a time trial/triathlon bike, that was both aerodynamic and intended to be ridden with a drop bar. That particular design culminated in the SLC-SL.
That bike was fast, but the speed came at the price. It should have been sold with a kidney belt. Or instructions only to ride the bike with 32mm clinchers pumped up to 45 psi. Alas.
While the S5 was a more forgiving bike than the SLC SL and more speedier than its predecessor, the S3, anyone who pays attention to what Garmin-Sharp rides in the grand tours will see that they really don’t ride the S5 all that often. Back to that whole kidney belt thing. Maybe it would be different if the pad in Castelli bibs was thicker, but holding them responsible for the Garmin riders not riding that bike more is a bit like blaming Blondie for the demise of disco. Disco, thankfully, was doomed anyway.
Felt released their AR model prior to Garmin moving to Cervelo and it was an intriguing alternative. The gave it slightly more relaxed handing than their F-series bikes and gifted it with a more comfortable ride. The downside to this bike—and see, that’s the deal; currently all aero road bikes have some Achilles heel—was that it wasn’t all that torsionally stiff. It wasn’t a great bike to sprint on, nor was it meant to be.
The Venge is a bike Specialized meant to be closer to a traditional road bike than an aero bike. Think road bike with aero attributes. It needed to hold up under a sprint.
Frankly, these bikes—the S5, the AR and the Venge—are the only three models of aero road bike I’ve seen on the road, and the S5 and Venge outnumber the AR, based on what I’ve seen, something on the order of 20 to one. I’ve yet to see a single Giant Propel on the road, possibly due to the newness of the model. Or, they might be out there by the hundreds, but just not on the Westside or South Bay of Los Angeles. I did, however, see another bike from Litespeed’s C series one day on PCH in Malibu. He looked a good deal faster than me.
For as often as I travel with a bike, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I attempted to put together a dedicated tool kit that I could keep in reserve just so I’d have the confidence that everything would be ready to go. It took a couple of tries to get it right. Those trips in-between were each one borrowed tool shy of disaster. The thing I realized is that a checklist never seemed to be quite enough to ensure everything would go as smoothly in my travels as I’d like.
You’ll pardon me if I was surprised. I’d been led to believe by all my über-organized coworkers and bosses that a checklist can fix anything. My rebuttal can be summed up as, “Ha!”
Lezyne has taken all the guesswork out of the mobile tool kit with the Port-a-Shop. Now, bear in mind, this isn’t the sort of thing on which a tour company could rely, but if you’re flying solo or with a couple of friends, this thing has an extensive complement of tools that encompass both assembly and repairs, and believe me, there have been occasions when the assembly went well enough but a repair threw a slider across my plate.
The took kit includes three different multi-tools. Those multi-tools include Allen wrenches, Torx wrenches, standard and Philips screwdrivers, 8 and 10mm box wrenches and a disc brake wedge. There’s a chain breaker that works on 9, 10 and 11-speed chains. It also includes a patch kit, a few insta-patches and two lightweight tire levers small enough to fit in your jersey pocket, plus two of Lezyne’s Saber levers. The Saber levers do triple duty; there’s a 15mm pedal wrench and a bottle opener on each one, plus a very thin tire lever. The Sabers are especially useful for anyone running tubeless tires. Slipping a lever under the bead of a tubeless tire can be as tough as living through a Southern California group ride and these are absolutely my favorite levers for it. Your rim will break before these levers will.
Here’s a bit more detail on the Allen and Torx wrenches:
- 1.5, 2 and 3mm straight and L-bend Allen wrenches
- 4, 5, 6 and 10mm straight Allen wrenches
- 6, 7, 9, 10, 15, 20, 25, 27 and 30 Torx wrenches
This kit is also ridiculously helpful for getting a party rolling. Including my secret trick for using a chain tool as a bottle opener, this thing features four different ways to free a beer. It’s nice to know where their allegiances are.
There are two tools this thing lacks, in my opinion. The first is a 4mm torque wrench. Given the number of bikes that are spec’d with carbon fiber bars and seatposts, I think a 4mm torque wrench is nearly mandatory for travel. Also, because some of us must remove our cranks to pack our bikes (and because some cranks feature a 10mm bolt), a long 10mm Allen wrench would be a helpful addition, though not quite as necessary as the torque wrench.
The Port-a-Shop Tool Kit goes for $139.99. The case gives you a dynamite way to keep everything together and make sure your full inventory is in order. Lacking such a well-designed case, I’ve often found myself double-checking to make sure that I actually had all the tools. With them wrapped up in bits of cloth and foam pipe insulation I felt like an OCD patient checking that I’d locked the door for the fifth time. I’ve seen plenty of tool-induced dings on boxed bikes, so this case presents a value greater than it might seem at first glance.
I’m going to add a 10mm Allen and then one of the Ritchey 4mm torque wrenches, slide them inside, and then breathe a serious sigh of relief.
I’ve tried several different mountain bike pedals lately. As my riding has evolved and I’ve tried new and more challenging terrain, I realized there were occasions when the pedals I’ve preferred previously weren’t exactly ideal. Some of them were lighter than the fingers of a pickpocket. That tended to make them small as well. Light is good for going uphill and small is terrific for not tagging the pedal on a rock or tree stump. But as I’ve encountered more and more situations that are dicey enough that I want one foot clipped out and just resting on the pedal, some of those tiny pedals don’t have a lot of surface area to rest a shoe that isn’t clipped in. On more than one occasion I had a foot shoot off just as I was being bounced around.
That wasn’t even my second favorite.
When I ran across the Baldwins from Xpedo I experienced an oddly conflicted reaction to them. They simultaneously looked like exactly what I needed and yet too large, too industrial for my needs, a butcher knife for a letter opener.
Then I tried them.
The first thing I want to mention about my experience with these pedals is that a heel-down entry was possible even without having a front gate on the pedal or the tension set to muscle relaxer. So many pedals I’ve tried won’t allow you to catch the rear of the cleat first and engage the pedal that way unless the tension is turned down too much to make the pedal effective at retaining feet. The Baldwins allowed me to keep the tension up plenty high so my feet couldn’t get bounced out accidentally, and yet I had no problem engaging either the front or rear of the cleat first.
Keeping the tension reasonably high also meant that on those occasions I wanted to tackle a descent with one foot out, getting bounced around never once resulted in my foot becoming unintentionally engaged. That happened at some point on most other pedals. Either my foot got bounced off or accidentally engaged, neither of which were terrific results.
The very features that made the Baldwin seem a bit more serious than perhaps I warranted turned out to be some of its best points. The fact that the cage around the pedal itself has little edges and corners to increase the ability of the shoe to hang on to the pedal made a big difference in clipped-out riding. The point was driven home in riding my bike with sneakers on. The last time I felt such a stable platform without cleats may have been prior to puberty.
The most obvious competitor to this pedal has been Shimano’s PD M985, the XTR trail pedal. That pedal has taken some knocks, though, for poor bearing seals and short bearing life. The Baldwin features three cartridge bearings. I began riding these pedals just before a tour I did in Oregon (still working on that feature) and I’ve put some significant mileage on these things since then. So far, the seals are holding up well but the bearings spin easily making the pedal easy to orient by just putting your foot down.
The cleats included with the Baldwins look almost identical to the old SPD road cleat; they are, however, wider. While I wondered about the wisdom of using such a big cleat, it was a brilliant stroke as the cleat engages a more of the pedal, giving you an even more solid purchase. I can’t say that any mountain pedal/cleat combination ever provided me with such a stable platform.
While you can get this pedal with a titanium spindle, I like the extra strength that comes with using a Chrome-Moly spindle. Some stuff doesn’t need to be ultra-lightweight, and in the case of the Baldwin, going ti only saves 40g off the already lighter-than-XTR 332g of my Baldwins, which was bang on the money with what Xpedo claimed the weight would be.
It’s possible to spend silly money on a pair of pedals, hundreds of dollars. For all the complaints I get about reviewing stuff that costs more than a semester at a private school, the Baldwins are refreshingly affordable thanks to their $119 suggested retail price. The pedal body comes in four colors: black, gray, gold and pink. I really fell for the gold (orange), but knew they’d look silly on my bike, so I went for the gray. Now that I have these on my bike, I’m disinclined to try anything else. That’s the truest measure of how good a product is—when you don’t want to keep looking.