From petroleum to bikes, I think that’s good karma there

Paul Component Engineering. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

When I was racing in the 2nd NorCal High School MTB League (yup, just dated myself) there was a kid in the expert class with a baby blue Soulcraft.

I remember him well. Not only because he was insanely fast and his dad carried the bike for him to the start line like a boss at the 2003 state championship to avoid the thick sticky mud in Nevada City, but he had some v-brakes I have never seen before.

Various types of brakes Paul made over the years. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

In the times where XTR M-950 and Avid Arch Ultimate were rampant, this kid had Paul Motolites. Cool like that one Macintosh user when everyone was about having an Intel Inside machine.

That was my first encounter of Paul Components. And now I finally got a chance to peek inside Paul’s shop, as well as the Paul behind the company, Paul Price.

Paul Price. The man behind Paul Component Engineering. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

After starting from his home garage in 1989, the company is now situated at a former Texaco petroleum distribution facility next to a bike path that was once a railroad track.

“From petroleum to bikes, I think that’s good karma there.” said Price as he led a dozen journalists around his shop.

Found at a metal scrap yard and now a prominent piece within the employee bike shop. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

To the uninitiated, it’s merely a nondescript warehouse with a bunch of machines running. Looking deeper, however, it’s evident that it’s more than your average machine shop. It’s a testament to Paul’s deep passion for cycling: From the giant CNC machine humming away in the distance,  the freshly machined cable barrel adjuster, the collection of vintage bikes high up on the wall, and to the manual machine in Paul’s R&D shop where he paid $500 for from a high school, they all speak volumes on the journey and dedication behind the brand.

Some might say the dude’s goofy, but I think Paul’s a total badass and knows exactly what he’s doing. So here’s an inside look of what goes on inside Paul Component Engineering.

E_Paulcamp1207

Office bulletin board at Paul. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0862

Metal stock was once cut by hand but it's now automated. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0881

Here comes a freshly cut block of 2024 aluminum to be turned into a stem. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0853

All the metal from manufacturing is collected and recycled. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0861

precursor to the cable adjuster. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0909

Paul likes his shop to be tidy so they machined a few of these tool holders for a few stations at the shop. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0928

This machine was making Cross Levers when I was there. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0924

Inspection. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0900

Paul stopped one of the CNC machines for us to take a peek. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0899

Raw aluminum bar (top) to finished quick release levers. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0902

A painting of Mt. Diablo by Paul's mom who is an artist. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0942

Some of the tools at the machine shop. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0921

A batch of hubs waiting to be drilled for spoke holes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0912

Few of the vintage frames on the wall. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0968

Paul fabricated this fixture on the left to prevent dings while polishing their Boxcar stems. Over at the right is a smaller polisher for smaller parts. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

E_Paulcamp0957

Walnut shells and corn cobb are used as polish media in this vibratory polishing machine. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp1009

Paul showing off his personal machine shop full of old manual machines where he tinkers and makes prototypes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp1017

A $500 manual machine Paul bought from a high school shop. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp1022

Paul dabbled into framebuilding at one point and this was one of his creations. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp1002

Parts ready to be assembled. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp0973

Long-time tooling engineer Jim at work. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp0994

Memorabilia and old parts next to Paul's desk. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp0989

Paul's desk... where the magic happens. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

E_Paulcamp1064

The 2017 limited edition blue in all its livery. Available in 6-8 weeks. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly


Sea Otter was a much needed breather

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

I thought hard about whether I should make a trip to Sea Otter this year.

No doubt last year’s inaugural e-bike race at one of America’s premier bike festivals was fun, but I could really use a day off, especially after what turned out to be an intense Saturday in Berkeley.

So I somewhat reluctantly made the drive down to Laguna Seca and in the end, I am glad I did.

As I walked toward the entrance, a friend I haven’t seen since InterBike came out of nowhere and we spent 10 minutes catching up as we treaded closer to the blue overpass. The conversation ranged from kids, life, and a bit of bikes.

Pretty spontaneous but it felt like family.

Once over the blue overpass, my initial plan of attack was to fly under the radar around the expo as long as I could. However, just like my previous conversation, my hopes of staying down low was all but evaporated within five minutes into the expo when I walked by the Boyd booth.

Old pal Richard was there showing them hoops with a couple of Factor O2s, industry chatters…

Want. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Somewhere along the way, test rides were offered but since I only had a day there, that just couldn’t happen. With more than 400 exhibitors, even quick drive-by booth visits quickly added up to a significant chunk of time as I jumped between the seemingly sprawling booths and race venues that littered within and outside the famed corkscrew race course.

As cheery racers went to claim their podiums from the day’s criterium and enduro races one after another, I slowly came to realize that Sea Otter is more than racing and new products.

Up and personal. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

It’s a family gathering of all disciplines where little rippers can share pump track tips with their older brother-in-arms of whom they’ve only seen in YouTube videos; Where aspiring cross-country racers in USA Talent ID jerseys rub shoulders with GT’s Anneke Beerten as Brett Tippie goofs around while filming his latest Just The Tip segment; And eBikes getting along with just about everyone, including them electric surfboards.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

In it, I find myself a brief reprieve from the constant barrage of what’s happening around the world.  The feeling where you’re so thirsty and suddenly the GU booth just magically appears like a desert oasis on the horizon, along with all the food samples and drinks you can have.

And I am not even mad about falling into one of the many gopher holes, or, as one of my teammates joked, bomb holes that lined the dual slalom course.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

With that in mind, perhaps I should treat next year’s Sea Otter as if I was coming home for Thanksgiving.

Until next year. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Cleaning the Steed gets friendlier with the Wash Buddy

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

I love washing bikes.

For me, there’s something to be said about getting your hands dirty only to get the bike looking new, all lubed up and ready to rock.

I would never win a timed bike washing contest but I really don’t mind taking my time scrubbing and tweaking, granted made more enjoyable with some wine and music thrown in. Maybe it’s my personal woosah from the never-ending daddy/husband duty, including the realization I washed my bikes far more often than I washed my car last year.

We can talk about this love for bike washing all day, but you’re not here for that. And honestly, I am not going to write it either since what I’m supposed to tell you about is this Team Issue Washer Buddy from Abbey Bike Tools.

Amongst the unsung heroes in my cleaning kit has been the Morgan Blue Chain Keeper that I reviewed a few years ago. In fact, I loved it so much I bought a second one for traveling and washing multiple bikes. It is a bargain for $7. But as much as it was stupidly affordable and extremely durable, it had its limits, namely the inabilty to shift the rear derailleur, and lately, its incompatibility with thru axles.

There are products from other brands made specifically for thru axles, but I wanted a chain keeper that could do it all.

It seems I’ve finally found the perfect buddy.

Designed by Jason Quade who bought us the ingenious Crombie tool, the Team Issue Wash Buddy is hands down one of the most well-made chain keeper I’ve ever had my hands on. So good it should be on everyone’s holiday stuffers list this year.

At its core is a pulley made with DuPont Delrin for low friction and chemical resistance to solvents. Coupled with the stainless steel spindle where the pulley spins on, the Wash Buddy is made to last. And instead of a set stationary location where the pulley stays during use, the Pulley on the Wash Buddy is designed to glide along the spindle to allow shifting of the rear derailleur.

Plenty of room for the delrin pulley to move as you shift. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

On my 11-speed bike, I was able to shift to all but the 2 smallest cogs without the chain popping out of the pulley’s deep channels. It’s a small but welcoming design detail I found to be super helpful whenever I need to rid the gunk trapped between the derailleur body.

To top it off, Abbey uses a gorgeous custom skewer from Chico’s Paul Component for its quick release. It’s the same proven design off Paul’s wheel/seatpost skewer, and the lever action has stayed buttery smooth even after repetitive pressure washer treatment.

Smooth curves and small details. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

So what about bikes with thru-axles? Well, the easiest way, as Quade personally showed yours truly at Sea Otter, is to insert only the pulley onto your bike’s axle. While it is entirely possible to use the entire Wash Buddy with the included Paul Skewer by unscrewing and reconnecting the quick release as I did on my very first try, I wouldn’t recommend doing just that though since the whole installation felt rather awkward.

The Team Issue Wash Buddy retails for $75 with the Paul skewer. But Abbey will also sell you just the pulley for $15 should you wash your bike so much you manage to FUBAR yours, or are already all-in with 142×12 thru-axles.

All scuffed after repeated washings but everything still works as new. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Is going in circles really going to work?

Counting the seconds as I barreled toward the 42-and-a-half degree banking of Manchester’s HSBC UK National Cycling Centre velodrome for the first time, I couldn’t quite banish the instinct that I was about to end my honeymoon with a busted face.

Manchester was the latest stopover in our freewheeling post-wedding circumnavigation of Scotland and northern England, a loosely planned route that proved highly susceptible to the suggestions of fellow pub-goers. Following the vague endorsement of “it’s a cool city,” we wound up penciling in two days on the itinerary, relying on our good record of finding our own fun.

Perhaps the single existing bit of intelligence we had on Manchester was the velodrome, a facility I had read about for years in the scene-setting of various bits of cycling news. We committed to having a look, hopping the light rail for an easy trip out to the track where riders like Chris Hoy got their kicks in.

This was nothing like the beloved concrete Hellyer Velodrome in my hometown of San Jose, California. The massive indoor track seemed something reserved for professionals, something we could never hope to experience. But I remembered from San Jose that Hellyer regularly rented bikes for beginner sessions at the track, and it wasn’t long before a couple of dirty backpackers in T-shirts wound up on the roster for a one-hour afternoon session at Manchester.

The banking loomed huge as I hit it as fast as I could, as a not-so-insignificant part of my inner voice continued to scream, “Is this really going to work!?”. Yet I felt the curve scoop me up as it had the dozens of riders I’d watched that day and dump me out on the next straightaway with smooth and seamless speed. The sensation of building altitude around a turn and accelerating on the descent was incredible.

After adjusting to the surprising scale of the whole experience, we wished we had more time. We hadn’t even gotten into the racing. It was sheer joy, and one of the most memorable parts of the trip.

Velodromes all over the world offer these sorts of sessions, and in this case, it was cheap. Around $25 U.S. got each of us a bike, shoes and helmet – the worst part of the process was the minor annoyance of setting up a user account for the facility.

We were lucky to sneak in for the session, but I’d recommend calling a few days in advance for advice on how to properly set up an account. It was a hoot, and a nice way to work off some of that ale.


Rapha’s Flyweight glasses equal heavyweight style

In the beginning, there were goggles. Military-style flying goggles made of glass and leather, designed to protect the riders’ eyes from dust … and judging from the photos of the era, the discarded cigarette butts of their rivals, too.

Then, came Fausto Coppi, when stylish offerings by Persol and Rayban gave the peloton some Hollywood sheen. This was surely cycling’s Peak Fashion: an age of slicked-back hair, slender steel bicycles and elegant wool jerseys in block colors.

The ’80s were still an innocent time, when Greg LeMond and his Oakley Eyeshades seemed modern and fun, before we knew what genuine sartorial sin really looked like. If only we could have stopped the clock then, before Mario Cipollini and Marco Pantani, with their garish Brikos. Before the dawn of Oakley’s “Over The Tops,” perhaps the most aptly named piece of kit in cycling history.

Alas, it was another disgraceful decade before the sport’s purveyors of ocular apparel got their collective shit together. Before a word like “cool” ever applied to your riding wardrobe.

Of course, fashion is transient, and we might well wretch when we look at all of our cycling selfies 10 years from now, but it’s hard not to look at a pair of POC DO Blades or Oakley Jawbreakers and think that they’ll still have a certain air of retro charm for the next generation.

They will be second place however, at least in this guy’s opinion, to Rapha’s Pro Team Flyweights, which manage to combine some retro charm with uber-modern styling and high-quality materials into one of the raciest, boldest eyewear options on the market.

The Carl Zeiss lens is made in Italy and coated with a protective treatment, making it scratch resistant and easy to clean. They usually look great, even after a long, grubby ride. And there’s a selection of five different styles, covering every conceivable weather condition.

For the racers, their svelte 25-gram weight will appeal. The way they sit, and their frameless lens design, makes it easy to forget you’re wearing them. They’re also super aero (if that’s your thing), and after a few months’ worth of testing in rain and shine, I can say they are excellent at staying clear, free of fog, and dispersing water. But all of that is secondary, because they look awesome, especially with the standard, bronze mirror lens. And isn’t that all we really care about anyway?

Not exactly cheap at $220, but that’s the ballpark cost of high-end shades these days. There is only one problem: The hard case comes with a space for two extra lenses. Damn the budget – those spots must be filled. And if you’ll excuse the pun, I already have my eyes on a couple.


Cross over to the SuperX

Elemently_SuperX

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

More of that slick finish on the all-carbon disc fork. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Toptube logo. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

The SuperX utilizes Shimano's flatmount for both front and rear disc brakes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Schwalbe's excellent X-One knobbies were fast and predictable. I just wish they were tubeless ready. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

The Shimano 105/RS505 levers worked brilliantly but the slight bulge inside the hood was a bit awkward. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Grippy Cannondale gel bar tape. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Fabric's excellent Scoop Shallow Elite was comfortable and easy to clean. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Just can't get enough of that paint job. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Instead of the heavy stock wheels, we spent half of our test period using a pair Stan's ZTR Avion Team and the difference was night and day. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

You’re probably asking why I’m reviewing a ‘cross bike now that cross season is all but over.

But hear me out for a few minutes here.

After InterBike (I know, so long ago), I was told that a SuperX was on its way directly from the show floor and I was stoked! I’ve been hearing a lot of great positive things about the SuperX and simply couldn’t wait to give it a run. But before I got the package, I got called out to cover the Loma Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. So the wife had fun lugging the giant box into the garage. Thank goodness the bike was light.

When I got back from the fire, the box was sitting there taking up all the space in the garage, but wait, there’s a crack in the box. Let’s see which SuperX we have here:

It was the SuperX 105 with arguably the best paint job in the entire line up. I mean, just look at the fork.

But I am not here to review paint jobs and how much it weighs. I want to ride it and maybe abuse it a little to see how much it can or can’t do.

Fast forward to February 2017, the bike is now on its way back to Cannondale and I am sad to say that I am smitten with the SuperX.

Compared to a lot of cross offerings on the market, the SuperX has a rather different geometry than most in such that the headtube notably has more slack (71 degrees) with the fork using a bit more offset. This results in the bike handling nicely on low speed technical stuff yet staying rock steady as speeds head north. I took the SuperX to the Super Moon ride (in the dark) and the more time I spent riding it, the more I realized how much confidence-inspiring the SuperX is even when I was essentially riding blindly with merely the moonlight. Its carbon fiber frame will take all your lines and soak up all your mistakes comfortably.

On the race course, the SuperX takes loose off-camber turns like a champ and the 42.2 cm short chain stay feels agile with plenty of traction at the wheel. The thru-axles (10×100 front, 12×142 rear) also make a difference on long twisty descents when I use it as a gravel bike. Speaking of riding gravel, while the SuperX is a pure-breed cyclocross race bike at heart, it will do gravel very nicely.

Now, I know Cannondale offers a bona fide gravel bike, the Slate, but I don’t care. The SuperX is arguably lighter (our test bike was weighed at a respectable 19.5lbs) and better as a gravel bike than using the Slate as a cross bike, plus I can still use my old wheels as long as 1: they’re disc and thru-axle compatible, and 2: able to re-dish the rear wheel 6mm toward the non-drive side to play nicely with the SuperX’s asymmetrical chain stay (they call it Asymmetric Integration (Ai)).

The stock Maddux 2.0 wheels, though, were a bit of a disappointment. They are tubeless ready alright, but they felt sluggish as if the bike got bogged down by a pair of boat anchors. For comparison sake, I swapped the stock hoops with a pair of Stans’ ZTR Avion Pro (of course I re-dished the rear), a $2,300 upgrade that costs as much as the SuperX 105 itself but the difference was night and day as if the red bull got its wings.

So my suspicion was confirmed: With a good set of race wheels, the SuperX will fly.

And Cannondale, the Schwalbe X-One tires had just about everything I had hoped for in an all-around cross rubber: Plenty of traction and rolls fast, but why not throw in the tubeless version instead? And while I am going to nitpick here, I am just going to say that I am not a fan of the shape of the 105/RS505 hydraulic STI shift brake lever. Functionally, it worked beautifully but the bulbous bulge located inside the lever just never felt right.

So if you’re still wondering why I am writing about a cross bike in February, it’s because…

She stole my heart and I’m ready for cross season to be all season long.


Wahoo Elemnt: Short on vowels, big on functionality

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Bike computers are my kryptonite. Yes, even Garmins. I know I’m in a tiny minority on that one, but they’ve always bugged the hell out of me. I can never stop the beeping. Ever. And the problem has gotten the worse the better the computers have become.

No matter how hard I try to work the wireless syncing, I always end up dragging ride files from the unit with a USB cable and dropping them into Strava. I have no patience left. I don’t want to learn how to sync anything. I want to be petulant. I’m proud to be a luddite.

All of this is undoubtedly a user issue. A bicycle version of PEBKAC, as in, problem exists between keyboard and chair. This problem exists between bar-mount and saddle. I know this. But I don’t care. I have no interest in the Quantified Self. I know I suck. I don’t need a computer for confirmation.

Part of the issue is device overload. Life these days can seem like little more than hopping from one screen to the next. Laptops, phones, tablets, smart watches, wi-fi kettles, intelligent fridges … I’m genuinely convinced that someone I know is going to become a real life Theodore Twombly – Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the film Her, who falls in love with his OS – in the next few years. I have some suspicions that it’s happened already.

I’m not going to start talking to the Wahoo Elemnt, but I am smitten. The simple screen is crystal clear and always visible, no matter what conditions you find yourself in, and the uncomplicated interface belies serious functionality. There’s all kinds of connectivity with Bluetooth 4, ANT+, and Wi-Fi, including automatic uploads to social media or everyone’s favorite ride-tracking site, and alerts for incoming calls and messages.

Route directions come with eye-catching color-coded alerts on the LEDs on the side of the unit; if you see those red lights, you’ve made a wrong turn. The LEDs are also customizable to indicate performance and exertion levels. Wahoo claim that it’s waterproof up to five feet, which means that unless you’re the sort who washes their bike in the deep end of a swimming pool, you should be ok. And the battery lasts for ages, even when it’s giving turn-by-turn directions. When used for more basic purposes like data and ride-tracking, it should last for several outings without a charge.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

The monochrome display, which is not touchscreen, will be a deal-breaker for some, and a boon for others. Were it not for its myriad features and excellent connectivity, you might call that low-fi. As an overall package, I prefer to think of it as paired back. No computer on the market is easier to set-up or personalize, thanks to its accompanying app, which also checks for updates and warns you if the battery is low. You just pair it quickly with a QR code and unless you want to individualize the info displayed on screen, the process is practically done. And though it’s obviously subjective, I also found it easier to use on the bike. Is it a match for the mighty Garmin? It’s another option. A fool-proof one. Which is great news, for fools like me.


Have extra kidney, need Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 Wheels

e_BontragerAeolus3SL029

The Bontrager Aeolus D3 TLR Carbon Clinchers. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

e_BontragerAeolus3SL072

The Aeolus D3 uses Bontrager hubs with DT Swiss internals throughout and it has been buttery smooth and problem-free this past year. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

e_BontragerAeolus3SL057

Subtle AND removable graphics on the rims mean you can go totally stealth if you so choose. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

e_BontragerAeolus3SL234

At 67g front and 70g rear, the included Bontrager skewers are not going to win any weight weenies battle anytime soon, yet they are very comfortable in hand with a smooth and sure-footed cam action that's close to the venerable Shimano Dura-Ace offering. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

e_BontragerAeolus3SL244

Still have plenty of cork left after one year of use. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

e_BontragerAeolus3SL189

Dried sealant and an inverse-patched tire patch. That's what the inside of the Bontrager R3 TLR Hard Case Lite looks like after one year of riding. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Let me make this clear: I did not expect myself to like tubeless road tires. My tubulars work just fine.

Plus, I have plenty of spare tubulars (intentionally) aging in my garage waiting for their turns.

Unfortunately, their call-ups might take longer now that I find myself enjoying, well, smitten over these Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 carbon clinchers that we’ve been playing with this past year.

But my love for tubeless road tires didn’t begin this way. In fact, it was like that very first shitty first date.

When the box showed up this past spring, I was as excited as kids running to their gifts under the Christmas tree on Christmas day. Coming in at 1,439 grams  (644front/795rear) with the tubeless strip pre-installed and with the tire valves, skewers, and brake pads included, the Aeolus 3 was ready to rock straight out of the box. A bit of elbow grease and voila, got some 26mm Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR tubeless tires installed and off we went.

Then I got a flat on the first ride. Boo.

A 2mm cut from a piece of glass went through the tread and I had just enough air to limp back home thanks to a can of Vittoria Pitstop and pumping more air whenever I could.

It wasn’t pretty and the cleanup aftermath was a pain. Nevertheless, I was able to ride home instead of walking home.

Frustrated but undeterred, I repaired the tire following instructions from Stan’s NoTubes and the tire worked like a charm. When I finally replaced the tires about 10 months later with Schwalbe Pro One , the tires had three major repairs and a handful of cuts that would normally spell the end of a clincher tire. But each time I was able to ride home without having to put in a tube (still have to pack a tube and repair kit with tubeless). And in a few instances, I didn’t even know I punctured until I stopped for my mid-ride coffee.

They have won me over since then and they’re now my go-to wheels. Yes, I reckon my tubulars are still lighter and arguably smoother, but I did find the extra peace of mind and the convenience of road tubeless tires pretty hard to beat. I can pick and choose my tires for the ride/weather without worrying about gluing in advance.

But what about the rest of the wheel? Well, one year of abuse did not do anything to the DT-Swiss internals. They’re still smooth and quiet while the wheels remained true the entire time. The 35mm tall OCLV carbon rim also proved to be durable and comfortable throughout the test. One word of caution: the rims on the Aeolus 3 are significantly wider, measuring at 27mm on the outside with a 19.5 mm inner diameter, so make sure your bike has adequate clearance.

In the crosswind, the Aeolus 3 TLR D3 was easy to handle due to its lower rim height and rim shape, but my oh my, these wheels felt just as fast as some of the taller-rim hoops I’ve been on. Regarding the braking department, Bontrager recommends using their own cork brake pad with the wheels. While cork might lack absolute immediate stopping power, it makes up for its shortcoming by providing a very consistent and manageable lever feel that’s not so bad after getting used to it.

I also love the Aeolus’ overall minimalistic graphics. Big enough to show its maker yet not overly obnoxious as if I was a rolling billboard. And for those that want even more stealth, rejoice my friend, the decals on the rims can be easily removed since they are not water transferred decals with a clear coat on top.

If there’s any cleft with the Aeolus 3 TLR, it would be its $2,400 price tag. Pricey, yes, but a worthy prime candidate for those who are looking for those holy grail hoops for both training and racing with the added benefit of being tubeless. This is a set of hoops that could go fast without beating up the rider. I am addicted.


Showers Pass will take whatever Mother Nature is Giving

 

Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

If you are attracted to the idea of spending a wet winter bicycle commuting in comfort and safety, the affordable Showers Pass Club Pro Jacket, a heavier-duty shell fit for layering on the bike, could be a great cornerstone of your regular getup. Yet if you are looking for an on-off stowable jacket for conditions that evolve over the course of a recreational ride, you might want to look elsewhere in the lineup.

The Club Pro shell is of a classic design, made of a waterproof fabric that drops lower in the back and sleeves cut for a better fit on the bike. It also features zipper-clad vents at the armpits, ventable pockets on the torso and a large horizontal vent above the shoulder blades. A drawstring closure at the waist, Velcro wrist cuffs and a soft fabric neck keep things cozy.

This particular model also features a color so shockingly fluorescent that this tester swore the pigment must have come from another dimension. Showers Pass offers this jacket in a spectrum of hues, all with reflective features.

The fundamental design challenge for a jacket like this is to balance rain protection with ventilation. A garbage bag provides great rain protection, for example, yet will quickly become a horrible swamp during physical exertion.

Rain was a non-issue while wearing the Club Pro during a 14-mile jaunt across a rainy Portland, Oregon. Moisture accumulation within the jacket itself was also not a problem, no doubt thanks in part to the large back vent.

Reflective tape right above the back vent. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Toward the end of the trip, with things getting a little toasty, the other vents were easy to unzip while wearing heavy gloves and provided plenty of cooling without water intrusion. It’s notable to me that the pit vents are short and shielded by the arm, compared to rain shells designed for other outdoor pursuits that tend to have very long vents running along much of the torso.

I’m no stranger to rainy-day cycling, having ridden hundreds of cumulative miles in the pouring winter wet while much of the cycling public was cultivating its love/hate relationship with the turbo trainer. It is absolutely possible to ride in total comfort with the right gear, which hinges most of all on the right rain shell.

To me, this shell is best for very cold and wet commutes, rather than high-intensity recreational rides. The fit is rather generous in the torso, making it easy to layer up with a bulky fleece and other items that are unlikely to come off during an early-morning ride.

The material of the shell itself is burly, making this a garment that does not pack as well as other options. Yet for something that will stay on over the course of a ride, it’s not a bad thing to have something that seems likely to withstand a lot of abuse.

Those looking for something packable still have options from Showers Pass, including the lightweight Spring Classic Jacket. Yet at just over $100, compared to $289 for the Spring Classic, the Club Pro is a solid and relatively affordable option in a shell likely to last several years.

As for the color — with the sun low in the sky in the winter months, assuming the sun is out at all, you are wise to have a little extra visibility. But if radioactive yellow isn’t your thing, you’ve got options.

View from the back. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
And it was all yellow. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly


Riding under the Supermoon

Elemently_Supermoon

9:05 p.m.: Ask and the gate shall be opened. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Elemently_Supermoon

11:01 p.m.: A rather chilly mid-ride break. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Elemently_Supermoon

11:45 p.m.: Late night posing at Marincello. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Elemently_Supermoon

11:47 p.m. On our way home with just a tiny bit of San Francisco looming over the hill. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Elemently_Supermoon

12:25 a.m.: Midnight regroup/goodbye at the Conzelman roundabout. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Elemently_Supermoon

12:31 a.m.: A few of us continue to climb to the top of Hawk Hill. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Elemently_Supermoon

12:34 a.m.: The view from above. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Elemently_Supermoon

12:14 a.m. Can only go as far as you can see in the dark. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

It essentially started along the lines of “It’s supermoon this weekend… let’s do a night ride.”

Okay.

I was itching to ride, but after photographing three days of post-election protests with a bit of teargas thrown in, my body was telling me to just sleep. But wait, I have a mandatory baby shower for Saturday. Life of being a grown up.

But it worked out. Got home just in time to make dinner for the family and suit up in time for the 8:30PM meet up at Golden Gate Park.

Other than the occasional bike commute at night, I must admit that I’ve never done a full-blown night ride. So yes, the unknown excitement was just brewing and I wanted to ride and make a photo. Or two.

As we slowly rolled through the Richmond district, we picked up a few more friends to form a group of nine. It was more than just a night ride now. It was a freaking party. Amongst us were 29ers, cross bikes, gravel bikes, full-suspensions, hardtail, 26ers, and even a (vintage?) 1994 rigid Merlin with fenders original WTB cantilever brakes. Despite different wheel sizes, fitness levels and ages, we rode as a group and got along just fine. It was definitely a welcoming sight to behold after all the divisive politics in the air.

Here comes the view of the Golden Gate Bridge that we just crossed, then there’s Downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge just a bit out at a distance. Damn, that view never gets old.

After a quick dirt refresher down Coastal and what must have been a 15 degree temperature difference, we were all too eager to connect to Miwok. A friend suggested that we all turn off our headlights somewhere around there. Miwok is more or less a wide fire road so it’s not even remotely technical but I thought the dude was crazy.

We did it anyway.

One by one, we turned off our headlights and soon enough we were literally riding with just the moonlight. It was so dark that 8000 ISO and a 35mm F/1.4 lens meant nothing. But over time, the supermoon brought out this surreal luminous landscape, with our shadows and the occasional view of the City just looming just far enough for us to gawk at. We rode in complete silence for a few minutes, taking it all in with only the sound of our tires gripping the trail beneath us. It was glorious.

Eventually we worked our way into Tennessee Valley, rode Marincello and went back to the headlands via Bobcat. In keeping with the fun, we kept our lights off for the climbs and went full power on the descents.

11:47 p.m. On our way home with just a tiny bit of San Francisco looming over the hill. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

It was already past midnight when we slowly cruised up for the final break/photo op up at Hawk Hill before we bombed down Conzelman with lights blazing again to trek across the deserted Golden Gate Bridge. Bridge control must have seen us coming because the gate opened up before we even managed to push the button. Thanks guys!

12:34 a.m.: The view from above. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

It was a little after 1am when I pulled into my garage. My headlight ran out of juice two blocks from home and my Garmin just so happened to lose the ride but the ride really brought back all my childhood memories of just going out and exploring on my bike for hours. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt so strongly after a simple ride.

Plus, being able to talk smack while suffering with friends is a major plus too.

12:55 a.m. Jeff making sure no one gets dropped. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly