CrossVegas: Thriller in the desert

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Pro men at the starting grid. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Racers wait for the call-up for the Wheelers and Dealers race. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Reigning U.S. cyclocross national champion Katie Compton chatting it up with a friend Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Pink gorilla sighting. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The sandpit where only the pro men managed to ride through. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants

Nice shirt, dude. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Kaitlin Antonneau of Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com waves to a friend during her warmup. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The lead group of the elite women navigating the course Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Almost done. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Crystal Anthony reacts after racing CrossVegas Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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FYI. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Post-race recovery. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Getting Ready. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The crowd at CrossVegas. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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(L-R) Jeremy Powers, Wout Van Aert, and Michael Vanthourenhout at the line. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Stephen Hyde getting it done in the sandpit. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants

Wout Van Aert cruising to a solo win. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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After. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Elite women's podium. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Elite men's podium. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Racing cross at a place named Desert Breeze Soccer Complex is such an irony because it was hardly a breeze. Okay, the weather at CrossVegas this year was noticeably more tolerable but it’s a World Cup damnit. There’s nothing easy about that.

during UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup CrossVegas 2016 at the Desert Breeze Complex in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 21, 2016.
When the bikes on the rack cost more than the car hauling them… photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

For the spectators, however, CrossVegas was a blast. Quality racing, great atmosphere, and plenty of hospitality. It’s also a much-needed break from listening to and giving product pitches at InterBike. Two highlights:

Sophie De Boer out sprinted Katie Compton and Katerina Nash on the finishing straight for the win while Nash worked her way to claim second after a crash in the sandpit. Impressive.

Sophie De Boer attacks for the win photo:Stephen Lam/element.ly
The moment Sophie De Boer attacks for the win. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

The sandpit got everyone talking about whether anyone would be able to ride through it. The announcers joked it was “the finest sand imported from Tahiti”. The elite men did it like hot knife through butter. Then there was the Wout van Aert’s solo win that was so thrilling that he made it look easy even though it was obvious the warm, dry heat affected just about everyone, including the supposedly ice-cold beers. Still, the turnout and the atmosphere was pretty cool. Can’t wait to go back next year.

The lead group of the elite women race during UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup CrossVegas 2016 at the Desert Breeze Complex in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 21, 2016.

10 Drool-Worthy Items From Summer PressCamp

A few months ago, I found out I’d be attending Summer PressCamp for Element.ly. More stories will be rolling out from us shortly, but for now, here’s 10 items (in no particular order) we saw there that we’re very excited about.

1. Fabric

Fabric Bike Seats
Normally you wouldn’t photograph the underside of a saddle as they are just painfully ugly to look at time, Not so with Fabric’s offering. The ALM shown here is so clean it’s void of staples and glue in such it’s gorgeous. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

The Fabric line is uber cool from a tech nerd point of view. Exotic materials, clean aesthetics and obvious think out of the box approach to product designs. It’s like going to an Apple event except no product is locked inside a case with a line just to check it out. The ALM saddle made in collaboration with Airbus (yes, that Airbus) is downright badass and not to mention beautiful. But that’s not it … Their cageless water bottle system is a nice departure from what we know as far as water bottle cages goes. Can’t wait to give it a whirl.

2. That Ridley prototype all-road bike

The Ridley all-road bike.
Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

It’s pretty darn sweet … more on that soon.

3. Focus Raven MAX

Focus Raven MAX. Make no mistake it’s one flipping fast, ready ready 29er straight out of the box. love the minimalist graphic too. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

At just under 20lbs for a medium SRAM XX1/ RockShox RS-1 build, the Focus Raven MAX’s angular look might be a turnoff to some but the bike is an unmistakably efficient cross country racing machine straight out of the box.

4. Wahoo SNAP stationary trainer

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Wahoo KICKR SNAP trainer, waiting for action. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

We know the original Wahoo trainer Kickr trainer kicks ass in terms of simulating road feel and performance. But it’s heavy and heavy on the wallet too. Here comes the Wahoo SNAP trainer. Priced at a bit less painful $800, the SNAP might just be what you get if you put the Kickr and your typical stationary trainer together. I love how easy it is with our iOS devices in terms of setting resistance down to a watt for precision training (or turning it into a nice fun torture device on wheels). That said, I do wish it came with a built in battery or had a battery pack option to make race day warm up easier (you could run it with a power inverter in your car) but the SNAP is a wonderful option for home training.

5. Tava aero helmet from Kali Protectives

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A cut away view showing the various protective elements inside Kali Protective’s new Tava aero helmet. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Everyone seems to be making aero helmets these days along with having claims and charts saying they are the fastest. What makes Kali’s new offering different is that it’s designed for both high and low-speed impacts. Sitting between your head and the helmets are what they call the BumperFit2.0 layer to absorb the slow speed impacts. Speaking of the helmet itself, the in-molding is different than your standard straight EPS foam in that it is co-molded with separate density foam called Composite Fusion Squared to further protect the head. Aside from the safety features, what’s even more interesting is that Kali points out although their helmet is not the fastest in straight headwind (when was the last time you went on a ride with nothing but perfectly straight headwind?), the Tava is more aero than competitors in other angles (read: it’s faster in crosswinds).

6. AlpineStars F-lite gloves

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Have it your way. All the different colors of Alphinestar’s F-Lite gloves. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

I really dig its thin, perforated pad-less palm and nice stretchable upper. AlpineStars‘ F-lite is your ticket if you’re into lightweight gloves and don’t mind not having hard knuckle protection. Oh and plenty of colors to match your outfit for the day.

7. Camelbak

Camelbak lumbar hydration pack.
Camelbak lumbar hydration pack. Flip the center flap open and voila, instant access to a meshed, organized storage area for tools, foods, and wallet. Oh yea, the pack will comfortably holds 1.5 Liter of liquids too. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

This Camelbak is not your ordinary lumbar pack. Roomy enough to fit a 1.5L reservoir with still plenty left for tools. It’s flip open gear compartment will neatly hold your essentials (and then some) for rides where bigger hydration packs are an overkill. Lumbar hydration pack also keep the center of gravity closer to the ground. I rode the pre-production version and while it initially took me a bit to adjust to the location of the hydration hose, I also didn’t have a giant heat absorber on my pack. The pack is also designed with the idea of having the hydration pack hug your body so there is less of that weird wobbly rocking feeling associated with typical hydration packs.

8. Pivot’s 429 Trail

A 29er race trail bike with a bit more travel, slacker geometry, plus Boost spacing front and rear compared to the popular 429 SL. This bike climbs and rips man. The 116mm rear travel doesn’t seem a lot on paper, but it felt like there was a lot more travel than that. Perfect if you can only afford one mountain bike (read: a lot of us) to do it all.

9. Stan’s Avion road disc wheels

The new Stan's Avion carbon disc wheelset.
The new Stan’s Avion carbon disc wheelset. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Stan’s novel new Neo Hub series is a nice touch in addition to the Avion rim that’s wider (at 28mm) to compliment the new wider tire trend as well as to handle both high pressure on the road and lower pressures for gravel/cross application. Oh and sapimspoke/nipple in both pro and their fancier (and lighter) Team configuration. Sounds like a good option in the increasingly crowded pre-build wheel market.

10. Speedgoat

Speedgoat full suspension bike
Ahh, the elusive Speedgoat full suspension bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

… And the ever-elusive sighting of the Speedgoat full suspension bike. While Speedgoat didn’t actually participate at PressCamp, we got a look at this ride and were quite intrigued.


Salsa Cycles’ New “Marrakesh” Touring Bike

Spotted on social media, Salsa Cycles new touring bike, Marrakesh, looks rather interesting.
Spotted on social media, Salsa Cycles new touring bike, Marrakesh, looks rather interesting. Photo: Ben Weaver

While wandering around the social media landscape last week I spotted a new, never seen before, Salsa Cycles touring bike. The photo, posted on July 11th by musician Ben Weaver, shows a fully loaded, drop bar, triple crank, disc brake touring bike bearing the Salsa Cycles logo with the name “Marrakesh“.

Closer examination reveals some pretty interesting details:

  • Shimano Deore triple drivetrain with bar end shifters.
  • The brakes are the tried and true Avid BB7’s.
  • Cowchippers appear to be the handlebar of choice here. They are more flared than Salsa’s CX specific Cowbells, but less so than the offroad centric Woodchippers.
  • The WTB rims have no braking surface, and there appears to be no cantilever brake mounts, so this is a disc brake only frame.
  • The tires are beefy Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x38C tires. There is more room to be had for larger tires, but it’s hard to tell from this photo just how much. 700×42 or 700×45 seems to be a safe bet.
  • The saddle is a Brookes C17.
  • The frame has 3 water bottle mounts while the fork has another 2 mounts, which Ben is using for Anything Cages. That’s in line with pretty much Salsa’s entire bike catalog. The fork itself doesn’t appear to be one of their carbon fiber “Firestarter” models, so it’s probably the same fork as the Salsa Vaya.
  • As with the Salsa Vaya, the Marrakesh has mounts for both front and rear racks.

The parts used for build itself could be particular to Mr. Weaver and his preferences, there really is no way to tell. Regardless, a brand new, disc only, drop bar touring bike from Salsa is an interesting move on their part. They currently have three 700cc based models: Colossal, Vaya and Warbird. The Colossal and Warbird fall into a race (or really, really fast touring) category, while the Vaya is aimed directly at touring. Where and how the Marrakesh fits into the grand scheme of things should be interesting to see.

The fit and finish, complete with Salsa branding and name, doesn’t look custom. Salsa typically doesn’t let branded test prototypes out into the public eye to be seen, so that makes this either a final production prototype or the first of a full factory run. I’d bet there will be a new product announcement from Salsa very, very soon.

Should you want to see the “Marrakesh” in person, and catch some great tunes at the same time, Ben is currently touring (by bike, of course) around Lake Superior. You can find his show dates here.


Review: A Magic Carpet Ride on the Boardman SLS 9.4

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The bike in all its livery, four months into the test.

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The front Di2 derailleur just shifts so nicely no matter what.

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White frame with yellow trim. I like.

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That's a pretty, stiff and comfortable fork

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The surprisingly-comfortable Fi'zi:k Ardea saddle

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Have yet to miss a shift even with an intentional dirty chain

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Subtle branding on the carbon seatpost

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The Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain is as good as it gets. Rides just about the same as its Dura-Ace brethren at an much affordable price point

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Simple and elegant yellow trim plus height marker.

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A drain hole on the rim for those rainy training rides. Or a race.

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Who needs ceramic bearings when there's Shimano cup-and-cone bearings?

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The white bar tape is slowly showing its age after nearly four months of constant riding, but the Ultegra lever and Di2 shifting is as good as new.

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The head tube logo.

Unless you were a cycling fan in the 1990s, you’ve probably never heard of Chris Boardman or Boardman bikes. Time to change that.

The company produces meticulously crafted bikes under the critical eye of their fearless leader. We recently got the chance to spend time aboard one of their beautiful bikes, the Boardman SLS 9.4, and were immediately impressed.

The design is unique and flashy, the weight is competitive with some of the best out there. The build they sent us was absolutely lovely. It’s one heck of a magic carpet ride.

Living on the hillier part of San Francisco means my typical ride starts with a 10% descent through an ever abundant amount of road construction and potholes, yet the bike handles all the high speed bumps and sudden movements nicely. It’s also nice to know the Ultegra brakes are plenty powerful for those downhill stop signs at the end of every block.

The Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain is as good as it gets. Rides just about the same as its Dura-Ace brethren at an much affordable price point
The Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain is as good as it gets. Rides just about the same as its Dura-Ace brethren at an much affordable price point

Once out of the City, the open roads in Marin County really bring out the true beauty of the SLS. It’s stiff, lively yet without that muted carbon feel. The frame and the 25mm wide Continental Grand Prix Sport soak up the buzz and the bike just disappears beneath me like a quiet professional. When I decided to open up on the climbs, the bike moved gracefully forward, absorbing every single vertical foot as I commanded it.

On longer rides, the compact crankset and 11/28 cassette helps keep me fresh but also left me wondering whether the SLS would be even more fun with a sub-compact for even more punch.

The stock Fi’zi:k Ardea saddle was a pleasant surprise in that it was comfortable for both a tester that loves narrow saddles such as a Selle Italia SLR and another that loves thicker, more padded saddles like the Fi’zi:k Aliante. Again, gearing ratio and saddle are arguably a matter of personal taste.

While on the topic of personal taste, I found the stock carbon seatpost to be difficult to adjust. It’s not the most difficult seatpost I’ve ever worked on but the forward bolt was difficult to reach with a standard torque wrench. Same goes for the seatpost clamp. It’s pretty and minimal-looking but I had a hard time trying to get a proper torque reading. So I certainly wouldn’t mind adding a few grams in exchange for a better seatpost clamp. Other than these two minor details, the bike was trouble-free throughout the test.

If you’re the kind of person who will buy a bike online, go pick one up. Otherwise, we suggest finding a Boardman dealer near you and arranging a test ride.

All photos by Stephen Lam/Element.ly


Bike Must-Haves: Pedro’s Apprentice Tool Kit

Pedro's Apprentice Tool Kit. Photo: Max Whittaker/Element.ly
Pedro’s Apprentice Tool Kit. Photo: Max Whittaker/Element.ly

Man, I wish I’d had the Pedro’s Apprentice Tool Kit twenty years ago. Instead of slowly accumulating the pile of tools that sits in my garage, I could’ve made one (slightly pricey) purchase and been ready for pretty much any repair most riders will do. I’ve built up a handful of bikes and made dozens of repairs with just the tools Pedro’s neatly packs into a slim plastic case.

While it’s geared towards new, tool-less riders, the Apprentice was great for tossing in the car for a road trip or race weekend—saving me a half hour of pillaging my large tool chest.

Mountain bikers will need to need to add a shock pump, and it’s a bummer that no tool set like this comes with a torque wrench. With the ubiquity of carbon bars and seatposts, beginners especially could use the precision of a torque wrench to avoid crushing expensive carbon bits with overly aggressive wrenching.

The included cog wrench was a revelation. Chain whips can now die the horrible death I’ve long wished for them.

Pedro's Apprentice Tool Kit. Photo: Max Whittaker/Element.ly
Pedro’s Apprentice Tool Kit. Photo: Max Whittaker/Element.ly