Go under the radar with this Thule Covert DSLR backpack

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For me, the chase of finding the perfect camera bag is as difficult as finding freaking Nemo.

You see, over the years I pretty much have what some might call a collection of camera bags, and the collection is still growing. There are bags I use everyday (ThinkTank ShapeShifter, AirportSecurity), some are seldomly used (the good ol’ LowePro Stealth AW), and some, such as my giant Pelican 1650 where I bought solely to photograph the America’s Cup a few years ago, are essentially one hit wonders. There’s even a repurposed Timbuk2 messenger bag with inserts for small flashes and lenses when I need to go light and stealth.

All of those have been my “system” and they have worked for me for a variety of assignments from shooting the Super Bowl, wildfires, sitting in presidential campaign motorcades, CEOs, weddings, and bike races.

But, as if the N+1 rule extends to camera bags too, there’s always room for another one.

The struggle is so real that I now sympathize with my wife whenever she goes bag shopping. Okay, maybe not about the last part but you get my drift.

So here comes the Thule Covert camera backpack.

Better known for their extensive line of roof and bike racks, Thule has been making inroads into various products to help consumers bring whatever they want along, hence their motto of “Bring Your Life.” So out in the wild are Thule phone cases, luggage bags, strollers and backpacks.

On the outside, the Covert looks just like any other roll-top backpack that has been all the rage lately. It’s a pretty inconspicuous bag that doesn’t scream “HAVE CAMERA. ROB ME NOW.” Awesome.

From the top, the roll-top lid is neatly tucked away with adjustable buckles, and unrolling it will reveal the zipper to access the main compartment.

The main compartment can be divided into two with its removable partition that seals the top half of the bag from the lower half that houses the camera insert.

Halfway down the bag is a second flap that covers a generous zippered organizer for small items such as batteries and keys. There are also two Velcro pouches that I found to be perfect for storing external hard drive and charge for my Macbook Air.

As if there isn’t enough space, there is one more pouch on the lower half of the bag where I can comfortably store a u-lock or a Nalgene bottle. There’s also another zippered pocket behind the lower center pouch to carry more ClifBars.

So yes, lots of pockets for those who 1: Like to carry a lot of stuff and 2: like their bags to be organized.

On the right side of the bag is an open pouch with an adjustable opening that’s meant for bottles and a small travel tripod. Also good for beer.

Moving on to the left side of the bag, there are side-entry zippers to the laptop/tablet storage and the heart of the bag: the camera pod.

the SafeZone camera pod Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

While the idea of a removable camera compartment isn’t new, Thule deserves giant kudos for making the compartment right. Dubbed SafeZone, the pod’s dividers are some of the best I’ve ever come across. They’re denser than the ones from my other camera bags and cases. They also have origami-like ridges to facilitate folding for a customized fit.

I’ve been using the bag on and off for the past few months and it’s now my go to when I have to travel with my camera. During a recent wedding shoot in Mexico where I needed to divide up my gear for security, I was able to fit my essential kit (a Canon 1Dx Mark II, a 135mm f/2, a 50mm f/1.2 and a 24-70mm f/2.8) into the pod. The removable-nature of the pod also made going through custom inspections an easy one since I was able to just pull it all out at once. The partitioned top half of the backpack also meant the rest of the gear wouldn’t fall out of the side door if you go for the camera or remove the entire pod.

For short in-town trips, I could pack a 70-200 2.8 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 attached to Canon 5D Mark III straight into the compartment with room to spare. The carrying chassis of padded shoulder straps and the back panel are ergonomically shaped to stay comfortable. I do wish Thule included a waist strap for better stability though.

Maybe I am a sucker for a multifunctional backpack with an understated look, but the more I use the bag the more I actually enjoy using it. For me, the Covert hit the sweet spot of what I want in a travel camera backpack: Keeping my essential camera kit safe while leaving plenty of room for everything else. By removing the divider and the camera pod, the Covert can be quickly converted into a regular backpack for those last minute grocery runs. The water-resistant material and overall construction are good quality and it is well thought out from its pockets and dividers, all the way down its zippers. At $199.99 and a lifetime warranty, the Covert is made for the long haul and will carry all your gear, or lots of six-packs, with ease.

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Thule Covert next to a Canon 200-400 attached to a 1Dx Mark II

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Yup. I can shrove a Canon 200-400 f/4 with a 1Dx Mark II into the Covert. With the camera pod and divider removed, of course. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

 


Relive InterBike

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Welcome to InterBike 2016! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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PURPLE PURPLE MORE PURPLE PLEASE Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Everyone seems to be making their own cycling computers these days but one thing that caught my attention about this Stages Dash computer is its claim of 30-hour battery life. Hey, you can now record your entire 24 hr bike race in one charge! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Shouldn't this fall under the e-motorcycle category? Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Otso Voytek got a good buzz throughout the show. Carbon frame that can take 27.5+ or 29+ AND up to 26 x 4.6” tires on 70 mm rims? Sign me up. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Lightweight's amazingly light Meilenstein has finally gone disc. The Meilenstein C Disc is a thing of beauty but was a bit disappointed to find out the rim width is still 20mm external and 17.8mm internal. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Giro's Factor Techlace sure looked different but it made a lot of sense after checking it out at the booth. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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I have to admit I was drawn to the Orbea booth by the dazzle paint job on this prototype Terra gravel bike. Looks even better in person. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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A 3D-printed Syntace FlatForce stem and a real Syntace FlatForce stem photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Let's admit it, skinsuit is a pain to put on. But Giordana might have an answer with their Quick On zippered suit system. More aero than a bib/jersey combo but easier and more versatile than a traditional skinsuit. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Dario Pergoretti's paint work never ceases to impress and this Responsorium in Ravenna finish is just so fresh. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Just can't get enough of this 3T Exploro. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Slovenia-based Unior tools might not be a household brand here in the States, but they've been around since 1919 and chances are you will see the tools a lot more in the States this coming year. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Australia-based Knog brought their newest Oi bell to Interbike. It's dramatically different than one's image of a bell, but it's an interesting take just like their line of LED blinker lights. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Old-school-esque e-bike, anyone? photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Poor tire, its one and only job is just to be poked. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

We had a glitch on the site in the days after InterBike, so this post is way past due but the unplanned slow down also meant more time to relive this year’s InterBike

While the gallery above is going to highlight all the fun stuff… Below are the observations from the show floor.

– First, the appointments. I got smart this year and did a bunch of appointments in advance to check out offerings from various brands. So my InterBike was more structured, with shots of adrenaline from random drive-bys to booths I didn’t know much about.

– The buzz I kept hearing was “it’s pretty quiet this year.” Well, that was true. The show was smaller than last year’s. I honestly could have just spent a day there. One industry veteran commented on how he/she was checking out people’s badges and noticed there weren’t as many buyers at the show as there used to be, and he/she would be pretty pissed if they got a booth… All about the ROI, guys.

– On the outskirts of the show floor was arguably where the fun was… I got a pitch about a solar USB charger stating “looks like you can use one of those” during day one. At the other end of the hall was also a booth that sells handheld electric massage devices. The massage device booth definitely saw an uptake in traffic on Thursday, possibly due to the walking from day one on the floor + CrossVegas hangover collab.

It's true. Someone tried to sell me this solar usb charger during the show. Photo:Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Really thought the days of scantily-clad booth women were a thing of past. But I was wrong. I mean, okay, sex (allegedly) sells. But wouldn’t money be better spent on making a better product instead of having models promoting shitty products (and offending the female attendees while at it)?

Amount of broken arms/legs: It dawned on me during day two that there were quite a few people in slings/braces. Guess adventure shows must have a few of those around. As one rep put it “they’re getting after it”.

Reception of e-Bike: Last year was all about e-bike bashing and all of a sudden e-bikes are the future this year.

Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

The international aisle. Probably the quieter, less buzz sections but everyone there was pretty cool to talk to (knowing Mandarin and Cantonese definitely helped) and they really deserve more recognition for their efforts of travelling across the globe to Las Vegas to showcase their products, whether it’s the gazillion lights, matte carbon fiber parts, or aluminum parts in all the imaginable anodized colors one can possibly dream of.

Three spokes, five spokes, no spoke, the international isle have got you covered. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Best snack from the show: Vanilla Ice Cream at the Skratch booth made with their new recovery drink mix. Not only was the line 4,000 times shorter than the Starbucks line outside but it was also freaking delicious. Way different than the typical “come by our booth for free booze” hook too.

Last thing I did at the show: tried an e-bike at the rep’s prudent suggestion, only to make it 30 plus feet before a security guard rolled up and warned “no biking on the show floor”. Returned the bike to the booth, walked down the aisle, and was greeted by two bros zipping past on motorized scooters.


Treat Yourself to an End of Tour Shopping Spree

Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

I normally associate the end of Le Tour the unofficial end of summer: When I was in school, the end of the Tour meant it was time to start thinking about the mandatory quarter/semester textbook ripoffs, and when I graduated from j-school the end of the tour meant, well, shit there’s no more cycling on TV for a while, perhaps I should work and bike more.

But one consistent summer activity I remember well is gear shopping. It’s a pretty cute idea to have a Tour De France-themed daily sale, to get all your year’s worth of Scratch on stage one and wrap it up with buying the 11-23 Dura-Ace cassette on the final day at Champs-Élysée.

So here are a few products we’ve been pretty smitten with lately. They are the few I won’t regret buying or recommending to my friends. You are my friend too, after all.

Kitsbow Geysers’ Jersey

Kitsbow Geysers' Jersey Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

We’ve been a fan of Kitsbow‘s offering for a while and the Petaluma company’s first foray in road-specific apparel did not disappoint. Clean, understated lines and it’s quickly becoming a favorite go-to for those long, all-day adventures. The Geysers’ are made of a 43% Merino and 57% Polyester blend so they’re slightly thicker and more durable (more on that in a sec) than your average typical spandex jerseys, yet they still breathe unbelievably well.

The fit was spot on. Not too tight and doesn’t like you’re letting it all hang out. Longer sleeves are also a welcomed addition. Kitsbow deserves a big high-five for the Geysers’ well-executed pocket arrangements. Besides the three standard rear pockets, there’s also a chest pocket for small items (perfect for credit cards), a water-resistant pocket in the back (for your phone), and there’s even a pump sleeve inside the center rear pocket, that I use to store sticks of CLIF Bloks.

I was in a pretty good crash while wearing one at the PressCamp MTB ride in Park City. I went over the bar and dented my helmet but the Geysers’ remained in one piece. Not what I expected from wearing a road jersey on a full-on mtb ride. Didn’t rip, didn’t break. I am now a fan. Extra credit: Kitsbow even included a microfiber cloth in the chest pocket for your phone/computer/glasses. It’s all in the details.

King Cage Titanium Water Bottle Cage

King titanium water bottle cage. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

I’ve had my run with water bottle cages and the one that I keep going back to is the King titanium cage. It’s a classy-looking, light as a feather (28g, thank you titanium) cage individually made from a one-man shop out of Durango, Colorado that just keeps working. It’s the only cage that I’ve used in which I haven’t lost a bottle with. Unlike carbon fiber cages, the bottle retention is actually adjustable so it’ll hold even that odd-sized bottle from your last grand fondo. If $60 is too steep of a price tag, King also makes an identical, albeit heavier version out of stainless steel that works just as well for $18.

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TUFMED TUFRELIEF rub. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Ahh, muscle and joint sores. With a raging one-year-old at home and touting all the cameras for work (and my bike), my dominant shoulder hasn’t really been the same. I’ve tried plenty of over-the-counter rubs for relief in the past with decent results but TUFRELIEF is my current favorite. It’s non-toxic, non-greasy, made in the U.S. with no banned substances and odorless: I can now rub it all over myself and go to work (or any coffee shop) without smelling like I just got out of a medicinal hotbox.

Giordana EXO compression knicker

Giordana EXO compression knickers. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

You read that right, there’s a knicker for a summer gear product review. I was never much of a knicker type of guy to begin with, but Giordana’s EXO compression knicker was impressive to say the least. Unlike most knickers on the market, the EXO is actually designed for warm weather riding and extends further down the knee for better zone compression by integrating eight (!) different types of fabrics throughout. It’s perfect for those morning rides around San Francisco where it doesn’t get either super warm or super cold. Giordano’s variable thickness Cirro OF chamois is also worth mentioning because it fits just right and is oh so comfortable. Heck, the proprietary chamois even has memory foam and aloe vera infused right into it.

Giro Empire SLX

Giro Empire SLX. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

There’s been plenty of reviews in print and on the ‘net about this shoe because of the shoelaces so I’ll just go straight to the point: Don’t hate until you’ve tried it (I know there are still many of you out there). The Empire SLX is freakishly light and comfortable. The Easton EC90 SLX carbon sole is stiff but Giro still managed to keep it so thin that I never felt disconnected from the pedals as if I was riding with a pair of Jimmy Choo Portia 120s. And the shoelaces? I was skeptical about them initially but I am now a fan.

ITW Tac Link Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

ITW Tac Link: Not exactly a cycling specific product but all you carabiner-wearing people will rejoice at the fact that you can use this without feeling like you’ve just connected yourself to your keys by the ways of a boat anchor. Just don’t go climbing with this one.

Kuwahara Hirame pump head

My Kuwahara Hirame pump head has gotten a bit of rust and scratches from constant use the past few years but I am sure it will outlast just about every single toy in my garage. Plus what's not to love for a bit vintaged look (and feel?) Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Similar to the KCNC pump head Jim reviewed earlier this year but this has been one of those tools I am super happy with. My teammates were a bit confused with this whole solid piece of brass at a team camp a few years back, but honestly I haven’t had one of those pump heads flying off the valve incidents since I got this, and it’ll even clamp on the slipperiest tubular valves with authority like no other

Knog Binder MOB Kid Grid

Knog Binder MOB Kid Grid in it's element. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Let’s just say this little guy’s totally lit. Silicone mounting brackets are simple to use and won’t mar, or slip off your fancy carbon seatpost. Five modes from its grid of 16 (!) LEDs to choose from, low battery indicator and even an integrated USB charging plug. Oh, and it’s waterproof. With all those features, you’d think it would be as big as a phablet but no, this is one well designed and executed taillight.

Jagwire Elite Link shift/brake kit

Jagwire Jagwire Elite Link brake kit. Stephen Lam/element.ly

Okay, it’ll take more time to setup than traditional cable kits but the tradeoff is well worth the extra time and money spent. Concept wise it’s similar to Nokon, Alligator, and Power Cordz Swift by connection small aluminum links over a slick Teflon liner to create a lightweight and compressionless system that’ll play nicely with tight bends. I’ve been running both the brake and shift kit on a Dura Ace 9000 group for about a year and am happy to say it’s so durable, accurate, smooth and crisp that I don’t ever want to go back to regular cables. Pro tip: The housing squeals every once in a while but a small dab of Tri-Flow between the problematic links will take care of it.


Bikes, Bags, and Shades, the Latest and Greatest From Summer PressCamp

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Midweek editor's ride led by all-around good guy Eric Porter. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The behind of scene of every bike beauty shot. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Product demonstration area at White Lighting. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Koroyd engineering cores in various shapes and forms. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Gerard Vroomen of OPEN showing his ONE+ superlight hardtail (with plenty of room for 3" tires) Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Would love to see more company doing subtle paint details like OPEN. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Custom Pinarello logo on this Mavic spoke. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Filed under "cool stuff you cannot have" aka dual-sided Stages powermeter made for the US Olympic track pursuit team. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The gravel crew in the afternoon. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Start 'em young! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Love them Alpinestar gloves. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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For 2017 GT is also bringing back that Performer BMX you wanted back in 1986. You know you want one. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

PressCamp in Park City is still one of my favorite events of the year. The laidback atmosphere, killer rides, that ride party at Eric Porter’s House, the daily doses of epic breakfast bacon, and of course plenty of fun new gear to talk about. Here are a few of the highlights from the week-long meetings. We will have more individual highlights/reviews in the pipeline.

Cannondale

The vaulted SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod will be available this fall with disc brakes. While the bike looks almost identical to the caliper brake version sans the brakes, the frame is brand new given that you just can’t slap a brake caliper mount to the frame mold and call it a day. The geometry is the same but the disc frame will have a different layup to accommodate different loads generated by disc brakes.

photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod disc with Ultegra Di2. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Even then, the weight penalty is minimal. Otherwise, the most noticeable differences are the utilization of the Flat Mount standard for the brake calipers, improved tire clearance up to 28C tires (the bike we were shown had 25C Schwalbe one tubeless clincher mounted to the Cannondale Hollogram carbon clinchers with a 19mm inner diameter), and the 12×100 thru-axle for the fork. What’s interesting, though, is that Cannondale kept the traditional 135×9 quick release for the rear wheel. The model we were shown, a SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Carbon Disc with Ultegra, will retail for $6,200 and I expect more disc models at different price points will be available as well.

3T

Better known for their cockpit components such as stem, handlebar and seaports, the storied Italian component maker 3T carried a truck full of their new Exploro gravel road bikes and they did not disappoint. In fact, they were so good they would have easily won the best of camp if there was one.

3T Exlploro. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
3T Exlploro. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

The loaner I rode was mounted with 2.1×27.5 WTB Nano mountain bike knobbies (and it’s compatible with 700c for road and cross) and it blew me away in terms of how playful the bike was over the rocky dry terrain at Park City. Oh, and it’s an aero gravel bike designed with bottles, fat tires and mud in mind that 3T went as far as 3D printed mud for testing.

THM Calavicula SE crankset. Bling. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
THM Calavicula SE crankset. Bling. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
3T. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Now, at $4,200 for the top of the line LTD frameset, the Exploro will definitely take up a good amount of your hard-earned moola but it’s one hell of a super gravel bike if you can only have one to do it all.

Fabric

It’s only been a short time since Fabric came to the US market and they have yet to disappoint with their ingenuity. New for 2017 are their lineup lights. In particular, the $39 R30 rear light.

New Illumination offerings from Fabric. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
New Illumination offerings from Fabric. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Thirty lumens LED strip capable of running in 4 different modes off a USB rechargeable lithium battery rated for 8-9 hours depending on running mode, all housed inside a IPX5 water resistant outer case. Beneath the hood, Fabric added an accelerometer so the light will automatically glow brighter when the user brakes to slow down, just like the taillights on a car.

Ryders Eyewear

I must admit I am not familiar with Canadian sunglasses maker
Ryders Eyewear despite seeing their products at different places over the years. Sales of sports sunglasses is one tough competitive market but Ryders seems to have a lot of good technology neatly integrated across the board from their entry level model all the way to the no holds barred models.

(L-R) Aero, Seventh and Incline by Ryders Eyewear. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
(L-R) Aero, Seventh and Incline by Ryders Eyewear. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

A few details that caught my attention: Grilamid TR90 materials on all their non-metal frames that is super flexible. We tried to pull apart a frame without success, yet it was able to retain its shape after our post-presentation abuse. Second, integrated anti-fog in the back of the lens and hydrophobic coating in front to shed water. No more aftermarket mods!

Blue

Typically better known in the time-trial/triathlon scene but at PressCamp, however, Blue showed up with a slew of new additions to their 2017 line up and the Prosecco EX Carbon gravel bike is possibly one of the best value bikes from PressCamp. For $2,699, you’ll get a full carbon frame, hydraulic brakes AND Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic grouppo. Also cool is the slippery looking Leigh carbon track bike, race ready straight out of the box.

Blue Prosecco EX carbon Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Blue Prosecco EX carbon Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Blue Lehigh track bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Blue Lehigh track bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

GT

GT Pantera: Seems like brands are putting more focus on introductory/middle tier models this year at PressCamp and for that reason, GT reintroduced the Pantera back into their 2017 mountain bike lineup. Only this time with a sturdy new aluminum t6 frame, a competitive spec and most importantly 27.5+ wheels for comfort, maneuverability, and fun factor for the price ($1620 for the top of the line Expert model). It’s a very playful bike and I think it’ll be a hit next year.

GT Pantera Expert. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Pinarello

Pinarello is now in the gravel market with the addition of the GAN GR and GRs, with the latter equipped with a elastomer rear suspension delivering 10mm of travel similar to the absorber found on their Paris-Roubaix proven K8-S machine. Both models are disc only and heavily features design cues from their top of the line F8 road frame, but with ample tire clearance and fender mounts as well as a lower price point ($2850 with Shimano 105 and $5250 with Shimano Ultegra.)

Pinarello GAN GRS gravel bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Pinarello GAN GRS gravel bike disc with Shimano 105. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Elastomer suspension with 10mm of travel to soak up the road chatters. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Elastomer suspension with 10mm of travel to soak up the road chatters. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Thule

Many associate Thule with being the brand that makes racks and accessories for your car but the Swedish company is much much more than just a one trick pony. Thule has developed products such as rugged phone cases, and luggage bags. What caught my attention was the Covert Camera Bag: a rolltop-style backpack that’s been the rage lately but the dedicated camera compartment had some of the nicest inserts I’ve seen. We will be reviewing one very soon so stay tuned for updates!

Thule Covert camera backpack Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Thule Covert camera backpack Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Nicely padded inserts for the camera compartment. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Nicely padded inserts for the camera compartment. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Smith

Smith, being the first to incorporate the novelty Koroyd material into bicycle helmets, is back with two new affordable helmets (with Koroyd, of course) called the Rover (for MTB) and Route (for road.) While the original Overtake and Forefront helmets saw a full wrap of koroyd around the helmet, it drove the price of the helmet.

(L-R) Smith Route and Rover helmets. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
(L-R) Smith Route and Rover helmets. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

For the Rover and Route, Smith was able to strategically place Koroyd panels in the areas where it would likely see impact, thus lowering the price point. I know the last few sentences were full of Koroyd. I, in fact, was treated to an interesting presentation directly from Koroyd, 45 minutes on a single material backed by data, Surprisingly, though, it was also one of the more memorable, and convicing presentations during the week that would make you want to wear nothing but Koroyd gear. It’s that good.

Ridley

Ahh, the slippery fast Noah SL, now better with disc. We tested a caliper brake version of the Noah SL a while back and had a great time with it. For the Noah SL Disc, Ridley designers went back to added thru-axle front and rear for security and stiffness. Ridley’s split aero fork remains and we expect the bike to be even more capable than its caliper brake brethren.

Ridley Noah SL Disc. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Ellsworth

Six month is a long time in the bike biz and Ellsworth is back at Summer PressCamp with a new owner and a spiffy looking Rogue Sixty enduro machine with 160mm of rear travel. The iconic ICT suspension remains but founder Tony Ellsworth incorporated a 420mm short chain-stay, mil-spec dual row bearings, slack geometry, and hex taper-axles that should translate this carbon-framed bike into one sweet tight berm riding machine.

Ellsworth Rogue Sixty in orange and black Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

The CamelBak Quick Stow Flask Quenches Our Thirst For a Reliable Bottle

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Insulated (top) and regular (bottom) CamelBak Quick Stow flask. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

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The CamelBak Quick Stow Flask, folded. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

At last year’s PressCamp, I got so many water bottles that I ran out of space in my luggage. So while packing for this year’s PressCamp, I thought I could get away with not bringing any. Well, day one and there’s no bottles in sight. Joke’s on me now.

But, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. Seth from CamelBak came to the rescue and I ended up with two of their new Quick Stow flasks for my gravel ride.

Let’s be clear: Soft bottles aren’t a new “thing.” They’ve been around the market for quite sometime. What CamelBak did with the Quick Stow, however, was incorporate their technical know-hows to improve upon a soft bottle.

At first glance, the existing CamelBak hydration pack user will feel instantly at home given that the water bottle uses the same blue polyurethane material (BPA and BPS free in case you’re curious) from their hydration reservoir. For the cap, CamelBak designers incorporated the design cues from their podium bottle, plus a self-sealing silicone bite valve similar to the ones found on the hydration packs. There’s also a lockout switch to prevent leaks during transport.

I was given both the normal ($20) and the insulated version ($28) and both worked very nicely. The cap was easy to thread on/off with an opening large enough for ice cubes and drink powders (whisky anyone?). And it never leaked. The textured surface also gave it a nice grip while I was sweating under the Utah sun.

The Quick Stow holds 17oz of fluid, a bit less than your standard water bottle but overall that’s not a huge deal. It’s wonderful for short rides, or longer rides where you want to carry a bit more fluids without the clumsiness/real estate issue of a hard bottle. Its small footprint also allows one to stow it inside the pocket of say, a Specialized SWAT liner bib … plus it’s great for traveling.

Now, the insulated version works the same way but with the addition of an insulation wrap that will keep your drink cold for about twice as long as its non-insulated brethren. After a few rides with both, I found myself liking the non-insulated version as it was packed down smaller and was slightly easier to squeeze given the single wall design over the double-walled insulated version. Alas, that’s just a personal preference.

Available this October.


Pump. Pump. Pump it Up.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
KCNC’s pump head will have you pumping and jumping for joy. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

I found myself in the back of the sag wagon pumping air into my buddy Marco’s third flat tire with nothing but a small hand pump. And all I could think of was why on God’s green earth did a sag vehicle not have a proper f@#$%432ing pump and why can’t these people keep air in their tires.

We were well past the lunch stop on day one of what was going to be a rain-soaked, flat-infested, mud-packed 2016 Coast Ride from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

I got on the phone and found out the second floor pump ended up in the other sag wagon, so we made a plan to meet up. At the next convenient moment I was handed a Lezyne pump, of which I am a big fan, with some bizarre contraption fastened to the end of it.

Turns out this little orange, red, and silver wonder is the KCNC Pump Head. Not the most enticing or marketing savvy name, but when something works this well who needs marketing. These things should sell themselves.

I was shocked how smooth and precise this little pump head operated and after repairing countless more flats I had to have one. The lever moves on ball-bearings and locks down going in, instead of out. Which after an initial “what the what” moment, is brilliant.

I found the KCNC’s website, but couldn’t find this little beauty on there anywhere. Luckily, the owner of this fine pump pointed me to Fairwheel Bikes who not only carries the KCNC Pump Head, but all sorts of other goodies, including tools from my beloved Abbey Tools.

Now, I’m not sure everyone is ready to plunk down $40 hard-earned to replace what is already a pretty reliable head on their Lezyne pump or whatever pump you are using … but if you are at all frustrated with your current pump head/bicycle valve relationship then you should definitely take a closer look at this little gem.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

Review: Forté Grip-Tec Is the Best Cheap Bar Tape

Forté Grip-Tec Handlebar Tape

Asking what everyone’s favorite tape is on a group ride is like asking people what their favorite saddles are … it’s a sensitive topic that involves many, many heated opinions.

For years, I used nothing but Cinelli Cork. Then there was Deda foam tape and then college came around so I just bought whatever was the cheapest. A few years passed and I was a satisfied user of the Fizik Superlight tacky tape … That is, until the day I decided to browse through every single aisle at Performance Bike.

Ah, Performance Bike, a trip down memory lane. The days where we used to look forward to receiving their print catalogue in the mail and experiencing the joy of ordering a bottle of Boeshield T-9 along with some Green Michelin WildGripper Comp S (with tan sidewalls, of course).

Anyway, I was on a hunt to find some cheap bar tape for my training bike and just happened to discover that Forte, Performance’s house brand of components, has some interesting sticky bar tape. Long story short, I got a box of the Forté Grip-Tec Handlebar Tape, in white.

Installation is the same as how one would install any ordinary bar tape. I found the Grip-Tec to be quite durable with just the right amount of cushioning. The cush is there without being overly assertive. It also grips well but not obnoxiously so as if my hands were superglued to the handlebar. I personally prefer tape that’s not too thick so that I get a better feel of the road. The Forte grip tape is just about perfect.

Oh, and great news for white bar tape users. The Forte Grip-Tec doesn’t seem to get dirty as quickly as my Fizik Superlight tacky tape. It’s easy to clean too. I simply spray the tape with diluted Simple Green Aircraft and Precision cleaner, brush, rinse and it’s as good as new.

So stock up on them next time when they go on sale.

Forté Grip-Tec Handlebar Tape

Photos by Stephen Lam