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.
I learned about Pearl Izumi in 1990 from a sales rep who walked into the bike shop I worked at to give us a technical presentation on their cycling apparel. To this day I don’t recall enough about what he said to be able to decide if the features were really that great or if he was just that good at tech presentations. Either way, he succeeded. I was sold. My grad-school-student bank account was thinner than the leg of a ballet dancer, but somehow I found the scratch necessary to order a long sleeve jersey.
I’ve still got that jersey in a container in my garage. It has held up remarkably well, which is as much a testament to my careful washing and inability to discard anything still functional as it is a verification of the durability of the clothing itself. The jersey had no rear pockets, so if you were going out for more than an hour or so, you needed to wear a jacket or vest with pockets. In the event that it wasn’t cold enough for both that jersey and a vest, you had a dilemma. How to solve that dilemma isn’t something I recall. But I do remember how I was convinced that no garment ever in the history of man-made fibers could wick moisture off my body as effectively. I stayed convinced, too, for the simple reason that it really did. Compared to the long-sleeve jerseys I owned from Avenir and Giordana, the Pearl Izumi jersey was better in every manner, save pocket inclusion. It pulled moisture off me like a cotton towel. It fit like a tailored dress shirt. The zipper was just long enough to conduct actual ventilation. It looked as stylish as a ’71 Mustang. The material was as comfortable as flannel sheets. And it had brand zing the way Clint Eastwood has irascible.
In 1990, Boulder, Colorado, was the epicenter of cool in cycling. All the best pros—international and domestic—were based there, along with a growing number of bike companies. The fact that Pearl Izumi was based there was simply confirmation that they had it going on. From that moment until sometime in the late 1990s, Pearl was the creme de la creme of cycling kit to me. I can recall season upon season where my friends and I would buy our team’s Voler jerseys but pass on the bibs and instead go with the Pearl Field/Micro/Ultrasensor bibs.
It’s hard for me to pin down why or how I lost interest in Pearl; it may be that I just reached a point where I was ready for a new top brand and I transferred my affection to Assos around 1998. Then, due to changes in management and shop distribution they all but disappeared from my radar for a good 10 years.
Last fall I got reintroduced to some of the line. They—Pearl Izumi—were something of a curiosity to me—the question being, had they progressed much? Sure, there were new materials, but I wondered about whether the cut of the jerseys and bibs had evolved in a significant way.
In the last six months I have ridden a lot of new kits. Some I have liked and will be reviewing. Some of the stuff I didn’t find remarkable enough to be worth the time required to write the review. My experience with all this new cycling clothing has taught me two interesting lessons, interesting because the lessons are divergent. The first lesson is that while cycling jerseys have come in two different cuts, generally referred to as “race” and “club,” those two cuts have evolved over the last five years. Race cuts are snugger, more form-following, and tend to use more Lycra or at least Lycra-adjacent materials to give them skinsuit-like cling. And while I don’t (won’t) wear club-cut jerseys, I’m noticing that many of the ones out there aren’t the spinnakers of yore. I’ve caught a few exceptions, such as some of Rapha’s pieces, but as the cliché goes, things are trending toward more form-following cuts, even if your personal dimensions are more Jon Voight than Jens Voigt.
Bibs, on the other hand, are cut in more lengths than ever before. This is mostly due to the incredible variety of gripper bands forming the bottom of the bibs. Capo is pushing the long bands that feature double-layer material simply folded over with no actual grippers. Assos is staying the traditional course with a narrow band backed with silicone gripper dots. The space in between is rich enough in options that you needn’t develop a hard-edged tan line on your thigh.
I’ve been wearing two different kits from Pearl’s line since this spring. One of the kits is the P.R.O. LTD Speed Jersey and In-R-Cool Bibs. The other is the P.R.O. Leader Jersey and Bibs.
I’m going to begin with the P.R.O. Leader Jersey and Bibs. This is Pearl’s super-call stuff. The moment I pulled on the bibs I could tell that this was a cut above. I’ve tried on so much stuff that seems amazing but I wonder how long it will last. Well these bibs are cut from 244g/m² (roughly 8.6 oz.) fabric, meaning it has some real heft to it. The sublimated side panels are, naturally, lighter—more like 6 oz. I’ve worn this kit mountain biking on several occasions because I figure if I go down it’s not going to vaporize the moment it comes into contact with the ground. These bibs, like the In-R-Cool bibs, receive a Coldblack treatment to reflect UV rays to keep you cooler.
Some manufacturers have gone crazy with multiple panels in their quest to create a better-fitting pair of bibs. But some, including Pearl Izumi and Assos, have gone the other direction on some of their bibs. Inventive patterning has allowed manufacturers to use material that stretches more in one direction than another, which has enabled them to reduce the number of necessary panels to make bibs fit properly. With the P.R.O. Leader Bibs, excluding the band for the gripper, each leg is made up of just two panels. That’s a six-panel short minus the bibs. That eliminated a few serge-seams on the inside of the short, making them more comfortable on your skin when you’re out for rides upwards of three hours.
The pad employed is Pearl’s P.R.O. Seamless 4D Chamois. I’ve had 4D stretch explained to me a few times (several companies are using pads or materials that they claim stretch in 4D), but I need to be honest and say that I’d like everyone just to cut this shit out. We live in a 3D world, and 4D isn’t really clever unless you’re a quantum physicist. For those working in textiles, just tell me the chamois has a lot of stretch and once I ride it, if you’re right, I’ll agree with you. Claiming a pad stretches in 4D is something I’m never really going to believe, either intellectually or viscerally. It’s a marketing fail.
But as failures go, this is a pretty terrific pad. At it’s thickest it’s supposed to be 13mm. I couldn’t measure it, but that sounds about right. There’s a central channel to relieve pressure on soft tissue and while I know that pressure relief is its primary mission, in many of these pads the thinner areas are really helpful in allowing the chamois to move with you without bunching up.
For me, the real test of a chamois comes when I have to make several out-of-the-saddle efforts in rapid succession. That repeated movement of standing up, accelerating, sitting back down and then standing up again won’t go well if the chamois doesn’t really move with me. At some point a lesser chamois will bunch up or catch on the saddle. The P.R.O. Seamless yadda yadda chamois kept my undercarriage happy as a kid on Coca-Cola.
The shorts feature a 10-inch inseam, largely due to the double-layer cuff that finishes the short. What’s surprising, though, is that the inside of the cuff is doted with silicone grippers; there are a dozen small diamond-shaped grippers on each cuff. I’m not really convinced they are necessary, though I can’t say they are a real disservice either. The bib straps are cut from Minerale polyester, a very lightweight and breathable poly that does a fine job of wicking moisture off my body.
The bibs are all black except for the sublimated side panels and the highlight trim on the bib straps. Visually, it’s a pretty traditional look, and in this case I consider that a selling point.
The P.R.O. Leader jersey is cut largely from nylon (91 percent) and elastane (9 percent), which makes it nearly stretchy as a skinsuit. The sleeves are stretchier still, for obvious reasons and are cut from polyester (80 percent) and elastane (20 percent). I’ve encountered a few jerseys of this variety that were so stretchy that once you loaded up the pockets you risked catching the hem of the jersey on your saddle. Some companies have used materials that stretch horizontally but not vertically, or lengthwise panels that simply didn’t stretch much. Pearl went a different direction. A big, stylized ‘X’ is laminated to the back panel of the jersey, allowing it to stretch some horizontally and just a touch vertically so that it will follow your contours without sagging. It’s a novel and effective approach and adds another visual element to the jersey. There are three small, highly breathable mesh panels employed to aid moisture transfer in critical areas, at the nape of the neck and the underarms.
All the In-R-Cool jerseys receive a Coldblack treatment to keep you cooler on hot days. Pearl claims the body of the jersey has an SPF of 50 while the sleeves are 40.
Of all the various pro-fit jerseys I’ve tried, the P.R.O. Leader has one of the very best fits I’ve encountered. It’s hard to explain the difference in feel between form-following and clingy. One feels natural, and makes me look presentable (MAMIL presentable, anyway) in the mirror, while the other causes claustrophobia while simultaneously eliciting a spider-web creepy factor. Honestly, I’m not sure which of these two effects is more surprising, but I’m clear that one won’t sell in bike shops.
The pockets on the P.R.O. Leader are a bit unconventional. It seems everyone is experimenting with unusual pocket configurations. For this jersey, the two side pockets are cut narrow. You can fit gels and packages of Clif Shot Bloks or tubes of Skratch or Osmo drink mix. You won’t be stuffing a Clif Bar in there; at least, not unless you like the idea of wrestling it out. What that does, though, is make the middle pocket big enough for a farmer’s fist. Inside that pocket is a second, slightly water resistant, radio pocket. There’s a buttonhole to run the earpiece cable inside the jersey, but because it’s not the sort of thing you can reach very easily, if you listen to music while riding, plan to leave your iPod on shuffle.
Part of Pear Izumi’s brand identity in the ’90s was the black/electric blue/screaming yellow color combination. My first Pearl jersey had it and I never tired of the look. I’m pleased to note they finally brought it back and this kit played those colors with style. I get concerned about any kit with too much black for reasons of visibility, but for reasons I can’t explain, this kit doesn’t appear as black as it actually is. In wearing it, I’ve had several people tell me it pops well due to where the yellow and blue designs are placed.
So what’s the damage? The bibs go for $200 and the jersey is $200. Some of you will squawk about how much money that is. And it is a fair amount of money for cycling kit, but when I consider this against Assos, Giordana and Rapha, this kit is a terrific value. It doesn’t stack up against Assos’ best work, but it’s competitive with their Uno line and costs less.
The jersey is available in a whopping seven sizes: Small, S/M, Medium, M/L, L, XL and XXL and the bibs are available in five sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large and XXL. I wore the S/M jersey and the Medium bibs. I’d compare the sizing favorably to most American brands. The S/M jersey is slightly larger than a Small in most brands (except for Euro lines like Castelli and Assos) and the Medium bibs line up nicely with most other American brands. Those tweener sizes of S/M and M/L are meant to give as dialed a fit as possible for an off-the-rack jersey.
Even though the fit is new, the materials are new and the look has been updated, this feels like a return to Pearl Izumi’s roots—great quality without going bankrupt.
So let’s start this off with a correction. This is the image I meant to pull for Day 1′s mention of the BMC TMR01, their new aero road frame. I plead thumbnail size.
The fork design is fascinating for the way it hides the brake cable and as an illustration of the lengths that engineers have to go to avoid violating any of the UCI’s ridiculous rules regarding aerodynamics. In a way the brilliance here is less a demonstration of real creativity than an indictment of the terrible way in which the UCI wields power. Yeah, I bet you were thinking that we’d leave criticism of the UCI just for discussions of doping.
I dropped by Hincapie and saw a number of new designs. Fit seems to continue to improve with them (I’ve got a kit from ’12 that I’ve been meaning to review that is the best-fitting from them I’ve ever worn) and thanks to designs like this one, the look is better than ever.
This big news at Campagnolo is the new Athena 11 with triple. While my personal preference these days is to go compact, I have always supported triples and in the case of Campagnolo and their Ergopower levers, found them easy to set up and shift. Yes, they are heavier and result in a wider Q, but they aren’t the wildebeests that some would have you believe. The combination of a triple and an 11-speed 12-29 cassette will let anyone go almost anywhere paved without having to buy a $7000 (or more) bike.
Among a great many cool things I saw at Ritchey was this display of two mountain bikes, both featuring 650B wheels. The industry seems ready to endorse this wheel size en masse. More nimble than 29-inch-wheeled mountain bikes and better rolling than its 26-inch-wheeled counterarts, everyone’s touting 650B as a great compromise. Shown here are Ritchey’s new P-650b (the red, white and blue bike in back) and a mountain bike that Tom built back in the 1977 (think Debbie Boone and Fleetwood Mac). Yep, both feature 650B wheels. I didn’t even have time to get into where Ritchey found the rims and tires back then, but the bike implicitly begs the question.
And if you’ve never had reason to appreciate just how fine Ritchey’s fillet brazing is, here’s the seat cluster from that 560B mountain bike he built in ’77. This is on my list of the top-five prettiest things I saw at Interbike.
The Legend is the new shoe from Giro that you’ve already been seeing on Taylor Phinney’s rather sizable dogs. Whether you dig the lace-up design or not, one of the notable features—perhaps the most notable feature of the new shoe—is the Teijin upper. Teijin is a microfiber material with greater durability and less stretch than traditional leather (meaning you won’t kill your shoes by going for a ride in the rain), but Giro found a way to make the upper from a single, seamless piece of the material. Crazy.
Giro’s designers decided to do a bunch of one-off exercises on the Legend for its launch. This one, a nod to classic hiking boots from companies like Asolo, re-imagines the Legend with the one-piece Teijin upper made to look like tanned leather. I couldn’t not shoot this. It would totally be the shiz for ‘cross racing. Right?
The Reverb is one of Giro’s many helmets aimed at commuters. What makes the Reverb different (and remember that reverb is a first-cousin to echo) is the way its design calls upon the past in a very specific way. It looks like the old LeMond Air Attack helmet even more than my son looks like me. Last year they offered the Reverb in the same Tequila Sunrise finish they offered circa 1992. This year’s palette includes this nod to LeMond’s Team Z helmet that he wore to victory in 1990.
There was a time when Pearl Izumi was my absolute barometer for great cycling clothing. In the 1990s custom team clothing was a step down from what Pearl offered. I raced in my team kit, but I trained in Pearl. Just how it was. And then something happened—okay, I’ll tell you what happened: custom team clothing, from companies like Voler, improved dramatically, and for a period of time Pearl lost their way, releasing boatloads of clothing that was good, but not amazing. There’s been a shakeup at Pearl and one of their brightest and most insightful designers has returned. The line has received a pretty serious overhaul and I saw piece after piece that I’d put up against the best stuff coming out of Capo or Giordana.