Press Camp is both the best and most difficult aspects of of a trade show rolled together. It’s the best of a what a trade show can be because you had the ability to receive the complete attention of whoever you’re meeting with. And it’s a chance to pick up anything you’re interested in and really look it over, also without the worry of being interrupted by anyone. But it’s also challenging in that every conversation you have could go on for at least an hour longer than you have time for. At Interbike I’ll schedule a 15 minute meeting with someone and not have enough time to find out what the new products are. Here at Press Camp, I have 45 minutes and we end up digging deep into the first half-dozen products and end up not having enough time to get through the others. No matter how much time you have, it seems never to be enough. Thankfully, I consider this to be a happy problem.
I’ve been meeting with people who aren’t necessarily core to what RKP is about, such as Hayes. Yes, they offer this amazing forged cable-actuated cyclocross disc brake shown above. And ‘cross bikes are firmly in the wheelhouse of RKP. But really, I stopped by to learn more about their suspension forks and many brakes. Anyone who does that much good work I want to check out; after all, their brands also include Answer and Manitou.
Years ago, I reviewed plenty of Canari clothing and used it in photo shoots. It was fairly inexpensive stuff and good price points. Since then, the quality has risen noticeably and the price hasn’t increased that much. It’s nice to see a company invest in Southern California manufacturing, while offering many of the high-end features you see elsewhere, such as digital printing, full zips and hidden seams. While there I saw what was one of the more intriguing pairs of sub-$150 pairs of bibs I’ve encountered in a good 10 years. Expect to hear more on those.
I first used a Camelbak in 1996. Back then, the product was good, but had plenty of issues, many of which I can no longer recall. As the company has improved and evolved, their packs have become more sophisticated and the bladders stronger, better fitting and less likely to impart any taste. Above are just a few of the different bladders they produce at their own facility. For where I live, the pack mule approach to spare gear is never necessary. There are no lightning-laced afternoon thundershowers and the temperature won’t drop 20 degrees as dusk approaches, but my mountain bike won’t carry more than one water bottle and I don’t go out for mountain bike rides on the weekend that aren’t at least three hours, so hydration is an issue. I encountered some new packs from Camelbak that I’ll be trying as soon as I’m back.
Assos is here and this was a chance for me to see some new products on the way for 2013. There have been some revisions to base layers that should make them noticeably more comfortable than most, if not all, their competition. And with four different weights, they produce something perfect for whatever conditions you’re riding in. Above is the jersey that will be worn by the Swiss team at the Olympics. I can already see Cancellara killing it in this jersey. Inside the jersey collar I noticed a little inscription.
My German is beyond rusty (think Yugo in a junk yard and you’ll get an accurate picture), but the inscription suggests that the jersey is to be used by the nation’s heroes in pursuit of the top step of the podium. Not bad.
I also had meetings with Clif, where I received a few new samples and we spent time discussing just how cool a life Gary and Kit lead (yes, I’m envious), and Cannondale. Honestly, I wanted to get more familiar with their mountain bike line, just because I find them interesting. (It has either helped or not helped depending on your personally outlook that I’ve been sharing a room with Richard Cunningham of Pink Bike and he’s had a Claymore here in the room that I continue to eye with fascination; at 180mm of travel, it’s a park bike and something I must admit, I have no idea how to ride.) Alas, they’ve got some cool stuff going on with road and that’s all we really had time to discuss. The big news on the road are a few new models of the SuperSix EVO. They are now offering a women’s model, and in five different sizes. And as is to be expected with any truly conscientious work, each size not only receives a full set of its own molds, but the layup schedule changes for each size, giving each bike a consistent flex pattern for the riders. There’s also a new SuperSix EVO made with intermediate modulus carbon to bring that model down to a more affordable price point, as well as a new layup of the SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod in which they’ve done a bit of judicious refinement in the layup schedule to shave another 40 grams or so from the frame and they say become the undisputed leader in the weight game.
We spent a lot more time discussing their ongoing work with aluminum and how much bike they continue to deliver even with an entry-level bike like one of the CAAD 10s. Watch for a pair of reviews of the CAAD 10 and SuperSix EVO in the near future.
It’s worth mentioning that one of the most-discussed products here yesterday was the just-announced Giro Air Attack helmet.
Even though the helmet won’t be available until spring of next year, it had most of us talking. And while the press materials make a compelling case for why it will keep you just as cool as any of today’s helmets, what had everyone’s curiosity, of course, was its shape. The helmet is said to offer a significant aerodynamic advantage, but many of us, and if I’m honest, that group includes me, struggled to get past the look. It’s worth noting that we’ve come to accept and even champion some head-ware that has no real analog in nature. Put another way: We’ve come to accept a pretty strange looking device—even like it. The strangeness of the look of the Air Attack says more about what we accept than what it truly is, which is a lot closer in shape and look to other sporting helmets.
I’ll do my wrap-up of today’s meetings this weekend as I leave here before lunch for a flight to an undisclosed location for the introduction of a new Specialized S-Works product. It should make for some great photos.
The water bottle is the lowliest of cycling necessities. It’s disposable even though they rarely wear out. You’re more likely to toss one away near the end of a race than actually wear it out. Most of us have probably lost far more of them than we’ve destroyed.
While keeping one may not seem all that important, it is by no means an accessory. It is as important as your helmet; for while it can’t make you go faster, lacking one can ultimately result in you going slower.
The old-timers out there will certainly remember the Specialized bottle at the left. Its spout dispensed liquid at a rate twice that of trickle and featured a top that didn’t leak. However, they cracked in freezing temperatures, which brought on a very different set of problems for users. It was supplanted by the Specialized Big Mouth bottle that gained instant PRO status by virtue of the fact that the bottle was softer than any of its competitors’ and the spout sent for a stream that didn’t frustrate the parched.
The two bottles at the right, by Elite and Tacx, respectively, feature pretty lousy spouts, small openings to frustrate those who use drink mixes and stiff plastic bottles that require a firm squeeze. They are, however, by virtue of their European origin, utterly PRO. The Elite bottle, with its unnecessarily complicated top that convinces you it holds more fluid than it does, is almost hopelessly PRO. I only have a few of these, but I wouldn’t trade them for a cotton musette bag. As for the Tacx bottle, it may be the most affordable item emblazoned with the Assos logo on the market.
Speaking of hopeless complication, I didn’t include the Camelbak bottle here, which is, to my eye, rather complicated and yet not PRO, thanks to both its shape and twisting closure on the spout. Maybe the fact that it is amazingly expensive didn’t help, either.
In position two is the Specialized’s new bottle, the Purist. According to company literature, the Purist has a coating inside the bottle to prevent the bottle from retaining flavors or being stained by drink mixes (Cytomax, anyone?). This coating is said to leave water tasting like, well, water. It’s also supposed to be mold-resistant, if not outright mold-proof. I can affirm that the bottle doesn’t stain or retain flavors, and the Missus—who has already confiscated one of my samples—compared the Purist to her favorite Nalgene for the way it didn’t alter the taste of plain water. We’ve also become more aware of chemicals leaching into the foods we eat, so it’s reassuring to know the Purist is BPA-free.
The Purist is available with two different spouts. The MoFlo is a traditional design Specialized claims offers a 15 percent improvement in flow over its Big Mouth and Little Big Mouth bottles. The Watergate includes what Specialzed calls its Heart Valve, a self-sealing valve the prevents leakage (a la Camelbak) even when the spout is left open, but of course, this one can be closed with your teeth or a simple smack on the hip.
Another nice touch is that if you order a colored bottle, there is a translucent lengthwise stripe that will tell you just how much fluid is left in your bottle.
Impeccable style is the surest route to PRO. But every now and then something works so well it would be stupid not to adopt. Think disc wheels and SRM. I’ve been waiting for a better mousetrap, one that wasn’t silly, but scored well enough on both style AND function to be called PRO.