PressCamp ’14: Part I

PressCamp ’14: Part I

PressCamp is the event that I think Interbike wishes it was. The challenge is meeting with everyone doing interesting work and getting enough time with them to be able to write competently about it afterward. Where PressCamp really excels is the fact that the journalists present are the purpose, not an afterthought, so when someone is making a presentation to one of us, there are no interruptions, no missing product as it’s being shown to a curious retailer. In short, no competition.

This year, my visit started off with Zipp and a screenful of math that I didn’t understand. I was told it was a bunch of equations for aerodynamics, but honestly, it could have been the breakdown of our economic system and I’d never have known. What the equations pointed to, I’m told, were some of the work that led to Zipp’s latest and greatest wheel set, the Firestrike. IMG_8703So the Firestrike is being introduced in the 58mm-deep 404 model. The marketing copy could go on and on about the ways it differs from the 404 Firecrest, but there are two big changes that necessitated the new wheel. The first is that while the design draws on the Firecrest patent, I was told new shaping and a revision to Zipp’s ABLC dimpling makes the wheel behave more predictably in cross winds, shedding the wind more predictably.


Graphics are printed for less aerodynamic disturbance and greater durability. You can see the new ABLC pattern here, which results in smaller, more regularly occurring vortices. Practically speaking, this means easier handling in all conditions and for smaller riders. IMG_8705

The other big change is the Showstopper technology, which gives the Firestrikes a new braking surface. I’m told that it not only gives the Firestrikes a better braking surface for more consistent stopping in dry conditions, but those arcing grooves help to shed water for a huge increase in stopping power in wet conditions. The grooves are direction specific, so it will be important to install the quick releases correctly.

The 88/188 hubs have been revised to eliminate preload adjustment and have replaced the steel bearings with ceramic ones for even faster rolling. The clincher bead has also been opened up another millimeter (to 17.25) for the Firestrikes for a bigger contact patch.

All this speed comes at a price. The suggested retail for the Firestrike 404s is $3600.


Niner has entered the road market (sorta) with a ‘cross bike, the BSB (which stands for Blood, Sweat and Beers). The BSB 9 is built with Niner’s top-flight carbon layup, which goes by the acronym RDO. It’s a disc-specific ‘cross bike that can handle everything from racing to you-gotta-be-nuts monster rides thanks to the fact that it can take up to a 40mm tire. I’m told a 56cm frame weighs in under 1kg. IMG_8709

The stays have clearance for riders to run either 160mm or 140mm rotors.IMG_8710

The frame shapes demonstrate a high degree of engineering in order to allow as much vertical compliance as possible while making sure the bike will stand up to out-of-the-saddle efforts. IMG_8711

The slimming of the top tube and seat stays vertically help keep harshness to a minimum. Also contributing to the effort to make sure the bike is comfortable over any surface is the choice to go with a 27.2mm seatpost.

Niner has a great reputation for making excellently performing rigid forks and the BSB fork draws on lessons learned making those mountain bike forks. They went with a through-axle design to reduce wheel twist in the fork blades and to make sure that the front wheel can’t pull out of the dropouts under hard braking.

The frame is Di2-ready, for those who wish to go that way, though mechanical routing is an option as well. It comes in six sizes—47 through 62, to cover a very broad range of rider size and every size sports two sets of bottle mounts. The frame set comes in two colors and goes for $2299. IMG_8722

Smith Optics introduced a new helmet, this one for the road crowd. The Overtake takes the basics of their existing mountain bike helmet, the Forefront, and builds on it with improved ventilation and outstanding aerodynamics. IMG_8723

The two slots that run lengthwise near the top of the helmet are designed to capture eyewear and work with a variety of brands. What makes the Overtake unusual is its use of a material called Koroyd. IMG_8726

Koroyd is a honeycomb-looking material. A piece 20mm thick provides the same degree of protection as 25mm of EPS foam, meaning a helmet can be made smaller, thinner and, presumably, lighter.

The Overtake was wind tunnel tested against Specialized’s Evade, Giro’s Aeon and Air Attack. While the testing was conducted at only one angle, the Overtake came out second, behind the Evade, a helmet that weighs roughly 60g more.

The Overtake comes in two versions, a standard version which is shown here, and it goes for $250. There will soon be an enhanced version that will include MIPS technology and it will run for $360. We’ve got the non-MIPS version and will begin riding it next week. Stay tuned for a full review.

IMG_8752On a slightly odd note, our first day of riding was rained snowed out. We had heard that our riding might be limited, that what was drizzle might preclude us from mountain biking, but when the drizzle got heavier and the temperature at our lodge dropped to the low-30s, the falling stuff turned angel white and we all stared out windows with jaws slack as the line of a fallen kite. Oh. Well maybe we should regroup. Though I missed having the chance to ride some of what I was looking at, I felt worse for the locals who were enduring yet another day of the Winter That Would Not End®; they were every bit as surprised as us.



  1. Aar

    I’m really interested in MIPS technology and the Smith Overtake as a result. Looking forward to your full review and impressions of the Overtake with or without MIPS as a product.

    I know the lawyers will jump all over any safety claims that are made without standards and testing to support those claims. Beyond that, I’d love an in depth posting about the efficacy of MIPS and/or other TBI mitigation systems.

  2. Randall

    Padraig, following what Aar said, they might not be able to “say” anything, but perhaps they could post a video of the helmet being impact tested. Those videos clearly show the traditional foam getting destroyed, and if this koroyd is a vinyl-type plastic (although I’d guess it’s more like LDPP based on the translucency) or something that can rebound without visually being damaged, maybe people could draw their own conclusions.

    I’d say the same thing about the concussion protection, after reading so much about the torsional G-force affect on concussions, it seems like a company could, without liability, simply state what the torsional reduction is for a particular impact. Companies make things all the time that have “useless” features, but if the consumer decided the feature was desirable on their own, how could that be wrong?

    This article has some independent test values:

    1. Aar

      Randall: Thanks for the follow up and, yes, videos of MIPS vs non-MIPS helmets in relevant tests and documents about MIPS’ torsion reduction would be exactly what I hope for. If lawyers won’t let that out, a commentary or interview would help.

      The Bicycling article linked is what piqued my interest in MIPS technology. As a person who suffered a concussion in a modern helmet, I have high interest in this area of helmet development. Also, as an early adopter of an aero road helmet, the MIPS Version of the Smith Overtake really seems like a POA helmet for me. On top of all that, GECET foam (commonly referred to in helmets as EPS but the two materials are different) is 1980/90s technology and koroyd seems like a step in the right direction for 21st century impact absorbing helmet materials.

  3. Carson

    I love the look of that Niner cross bike. I have one of their carbon hardtail mountain bikes and it handles beautifully. Based on that, I’m guessing that the BSB will be a great ride.

  4. SusanJane

    I have only commented on a few technical/products, but here goes with an initial irreverent one. This alternative to the traditional foam looks suspiciously like one of those tiny ammo boxes… surely not intentional but this trend of calling bikes and other bits weapons… well, this is a remarkable coincidence. The big boxy holes are just plain weird, I just don’t see airflow here at all. It’ll be interesting to see how it wears. It really reminds me of those old, old Bells that caused your head to bob on really fast descents. Returning to another irreverent comment… the honeycomb appearance… I can just hear comments about riders being bees, attracting bees, or just plain being called “honey”. I mean, really, how could I pass up on that one?

    1. Sluggo

      One of the main markets for this honeycomb is actually airflow control in open air commercial refrigerators. The kind that they keep meats and cheeses in at your local super market. Works pretty good for airflow.

  5. Full Monte

    The innovation and technology applied to cycling never ceases to amaze me. Three very cool, leading-edge and interesting products. Thanks for the write-up. Good stuff. And I’m sorry ’bout the ride, or lack thereof. That really stinks.

  6. Cash

    I have a Smith Forefront mountain bike helmet. It’s the best helmet I’ve yet worn. Better than the POC Trabec it replaced and a long ling of Giros and Bells that came before it. The fit is dialed (at least for me head) and it strikes the right balance between light weight, full coverage and ventilation. It’s expensive, but definitely a top quality product. I will be wearing the Smith road helmet as soon as it’s available.

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