I’ve been aware of Knog products for years. Their Interbike booths have been places of wonder to visit each year, sometimes less for the products themselves than the presentation. One recent booth wasn’t so much a trade show exhibit as it was the 32-headed love child between a Euro disco and a roomful of architectural dioramas. I could have spent the whole night there.
But we’re talking about lights, or at least, we’re meant to be.
I’ve dealt with my share of blinky lights that pierce the darkness with the hope that they’ll remind drivers to go around rather than over me. Honestly, some aren’t all that bright. Most of the rechargeable ones I’ve encountered have batteries and/or charging systems fussier than my three year old (and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone except maybe one former girlfriend), while a great many of them are difficult to mount—even to a jersey pocket.
If you’d told me 10 years ago that one day four LEDs could be produce this much light, I’d have laughed until I snorted. The first time I turned the Blinder 4 Cross (a front light featuring white LEDs) on and turned it around to look at it, I turned it back around with all the haste of someone releasing the wild animal that has just bit them. It was brighter than some gifted kids. The front light is rated at 80 Lumens which, on paper, isn’t a lot and by not a lot I mean less than a night light, but my experience actually riding with this light is that it’s a good deal more useful.
On those mornings when I leave the house when it’s still pitch dark and there’s no glow on the horizon (it’s happened a few times in the last week), the Blinder 4 Cross has thrown enough light to actually help as a headlight. I didn’t set out with that desire, mind you; there was enough light being cast by the streetlights that my only concern was being seen by drivers. That the Blinder 4 Cross could actually illuminate the road in front of me was a real surprise. Of course, if I was traveling faster than about 12 mph I outran the light thrown, but I have enough uphill on the way to the start of my ride thatI was moving pretty slow. On full burn, Knog says the Blinder 4 Cross will last for three hours. I’ve gotten about a week’s worth of use from a single charge and all I need the light for is getting to the start of the ride, so that sounds about right to me; I get a week’s-worth of use from a single charge. It has four other settings and if switched to the Eco Flash a single charge should last 50 hours.
The Blinder 4V (a rear light featuring red LEDs) throws 44 Lumens which, again, on paper is absolutely dim. Dim, that is, until you actually stare directly into the flashing lights which generate enough light to spark seizures in the dead. Like the front version, the Blinder 4V offers five modes of use, ranging from steady (three-hour burn) to the 50-hour run time on the Eco Flash.
Charging these things is a snap. There’s a flip-out USB plug so that you don’t need a special charger, yet another outlet or anything fancy. Just plug it into your computer for a few hours. For those of you who are commuters, the ability to charge both your lights during your workday is useful like beer after manual labor.
Both lights come in a variety of colors and even styles to match your bike and your personal sense of style. At $44.95 apiece, these things ain’t cheap, but when I think back on what I’ve spent for other lights in the past, these are a good bit more useful, as evidenced by their clamp system. I’ve heard criticisms of the rubber bands that Knog uses for mounts on their Blinder-series lights. I can see how with repeated mountings (if you shift them from bike to bike as I do) they may eventually break. And at nearly $50, that would be a colossal frustration. Sure, you could strap the light to your bar or seatpost with a couple of zip ties, but really? What I can say is that if you’re switching them from bike to bike, the clamp system is pie-easy and wit-quick. In the past, moving lights was time consuming enough that I’ve had to appoint a single bike as my early morning winter bike.
Final thought: As bright as they are easy. If only kids were like this.
The final day of Press Camp was an unfortunately abbreviated affair for me as I had a plane to catch to get to yet another media event, this one a continent away. I began my final day with one of my most eagerly awaited appointments—the U.S. team behind Ridley. While the brand has interested me for some time, I really haven’t devoted any editorial to them because I simply haven’t had a relationship with anyone who worked for them. This was a chance to begin rectifying that.
While I got a great tour through the entirety of their line, I have to admit that there were two bikes of particular interest to me. Top of my list was the Noah. I’ve found this bike to be one of the more interesting takes on an aero road design in the peloton. This owes, in part, to the integrated F-brake which is incorporated into the fork and seatstays.
There’s little doubt that it improves the aerodynamics of the bike; Ridley claims that the Noah will save you 20 watts over a conventional road frame. That’s a pretty colossal improvement; even 10 watts for me would be appreciable. And welcome.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll reiterate that engineers at several different brands have all told me the same thing: All the real gains to be made in the future won’t be in weight. To the extent that we get faster due to strictly technological advances, they will all come in the realm of aerodynamics. I wasn’t so sure I believed them until I had a rider who wasn’t as strong as me drop me on a flat road while riding his TT bike. I simply couldn’t stay in his draft.
The Noah uses a seat mast, which is a feature I’m not sure I’ll ever come to love, not in any frame. While I respect that this contributes to the frame’s overall aerodynamic slipperosity (new word, you heard it here first), every frame I’ve ever ridden that used a seatmast design was less comfortable than similar frames spec’d with a 27.2mm seat post. Regardless, I hope to ride a Noah some time soon.
Also on display was a new version of the Helium. With a slightly sloping top tube, tubes with squarish profiles and string bean seat stays, this thing could be a cousin to the Cervelo R3. This sense is reinforced now by a redesign in which the seatmast has been replaced by a conventional 27.2mm seat post. Hooray!
The Helium is a simple, clean design unencumbered by superfluous contours that cause so many frames to look like an early ’60s Corvette and weigh nearly as much. As it was put to me, the new Helium finally gives Ridley a truly pro-worthy climbing bike, and one that will be a good deal easier to travel with. I was surprised to learn that one of the big drivers for doing a traditional seatpost on this bike wasn’t ride quality; rather, it was the ability to pack the bike more easily for travel. Go figure.
Also worth mentioning is the new women’s bike, the Liz. It won’t be any woman’s first road bike, but it will be a great bike to upgrade to after that first under-spec’d road bike.
Of all the brands at Press Camp, Knog is one that’s been on my radar, and I could easily have made a request to review some of their stuff, but I was never really certain how their offerings would go over with the RKP readership. Our reviews have skewed toward performance items for serious roadies, but thanks in no small part due to the FGR, we’ve learned that a great many of you ride early, ride late, run errands on your bikes and in short do things that don’t require being the leader of some Strava segment. Oh, and that you’d like to live to see your next ride. As a result, you’ll start seeing some mentions of Knog product here and there. They’ve got a zany, irreverent sensibility—think Greenpeace at a rave—that meshes well with the fact that their products are as green as possible and easier to use than a Coke machine. Let me add that when they decided to call their LED light series the Blinders, that wasn’t hyperbole. I looked directly into one and my retinas are still on strike.
My stop at CycleOps was unforgivably brief. The pending arrival of my airport shuttle had me blowing through their suite like a starving man at a buffet line. I was interested in it all, but didn’t have the time to sit down and really learn much. The most exciting news, so far as I was concerned, was the announcement of the new Joule GPS. So now you can have all the functionality of the Joule bike computer with its ability to allow you to examine your wattage on the fly combined with GPS tracking of your route which may not be that important to you while you’re on the bike, but will be very handy when it comes time to upload your ride to Map My Ride or Strava. You’ll still need to upload the route to two different pieces of software as neither MMR or Strava enable you to examine your performance the way that CycleOps’ Power Center or Training Peaks does, though.
CycleOps has also partnered with Enve to offer high-end wheelsets. For those looking for an aerodynamic set of wheels that will also allow for wattage reading, this partnership offers a terrific solution.
And while you’re not going to care a whit about this in June (why should you?), I saw the CycleOps Virtual Trainer, which combines indoor training with the challenge of real-world training routes. Tacx has had a product that works along these lines, but CycleOps adds a really significant wrinkle to this equation. You have the ability to upload video you’ve recorded (say, via a GoPro camera) along with a GPS route to give you a significantly simulated training experience. The trainer will increase the load to simulate climbs and ease it for descents. The one thing your training won’t fix is that if you got dropped on the ride you shot, you’re still going to get dropped next winter. Oops.
I’ve wanted to attend Press Camp since the event’s inception four years ago. It took a while for both the event and RKP to grow enough that we received an invitation. Honestly, it was even better than I had expected. The event is exceedingly well organized, but that didn’t surprise me. The driving forces behind the event are Lance Camisasca and Chris Zigmont. Camisasca is the former director for the Interbike trade show and Zigmont is the former general manager for Mavic and Pedro’s. Zigmont also ran Mavic’s neutral support program here in North America for many years. He has a talent for providing logistics for herded cats.
It’s worth mentioning how much fun it is to interact with my colleagues. I had the opportunity to meet David Bernstein of the FredCast, Byron from Bike Hugger, as well as spend time with friends like Ben Edwards at peloton and Nick Legan over at Velo.
It’s no secret that the Interbike trade show has been suffering the pains of an entity whose business model is in decline. Suppliers want the show to happen earlier so they can place preseason orders, while retailers want the show to happen later so that they don’t have to take their most important staff out of the store for a week during peak selling season. In metaphoric terms, she wants to get married and he’s not ready to give up his little black book. It’s a relationship destined for the rocks.
Press Camp gives the media access to a bunch of brands that are interested in media coverage; and while you might think that is everybody, not every brand out there cares if Road Bike Action, LAVA or RKP writes a word about them. From the brands’ perch, this is a chance to have the same conversation over and over, which can simplify a day. Surprisingly, the 45 minute sessions go quickly. It’s amazing how little you can cover in 45 minutes, even though it’s a great deal more than you can cover in 15 minutes at Interbike.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Interbike. While I hate Las Vegas the way a teenage girl hates acne, I’ve come to accept that it’s a place anyone can get a reasonable airfare to and even the unemployed can afford a hotel room. I know; I’ve done it. I love the way it brings together a big swath of the industry, though I prefer the way it used to bring together the whole of the industry. But that’s the thing about Press Camp and Dealer Camp: They aren’t so much a response to Interbike as they are a response to the big dealer events hosted by Trek, Specialized and Giant. The success of those dealer events is because of the intimate (sometimes pronounced “captive audience”) setting where dealers don’t just get specs and pricing, but education.
Trade shows were speed dating before speed dating was cool. The problem is that as the bike industry has become more sophisticated, the grocery-store model of strolling aisles has ceased to work for most people. Next time I go, though, I plan to schedule fewer afternoon appointments so that I can actually get out for a ride. It felt silly to leave Park City without having gone for a single ride.