What makes for an exceptional bicycle workstand? With many options in today’s marketplace, details make the difference. Topeak’s Prepstand X offers a sturdy and highly portable option with great flexibility, but is this the workstand that works for you? If you like the idea of a one-lever-per-function system that works across an array of standards, read on.
The Prepstand X is an 11-pound, three-legged, foldable unit that relies on a front-fork mount system (as in, take that front wheel off). The 6061-aluminum stand can handle bicycles up to nearly 40 pounds, and an array of adaptors make it possible to accommodate many today’s axle standards. This tester found prices for online retailers between $200 and $250.
Perhaps most notable about the Prepstand X is that each operating lever affects a separate adjustment. Height, angle and rotation are all secured through individual levers. It may seem subtle, but the ability to control only the desired variable is very helpful when manipulating a frame for maintenance. For a hard-working workstand, this is a great feature.
Also notable is the Prepstand X’s ability to pack up in to a very manageable size. This full-size repair stand packs down to the size of a small duffel bag, and this sturdy stand appears ready to put in hard work in the field or at home.
The home mechanic using this stand will appreciate the ability to manipulate a frame 90 degrees from horizontal in either direction, all while maintaining stability via a large tray. A ratcheting strap across the downtube holds the bottom bracket well, and with the quick-release fork mount, the two points of contact are more stable than an alternative seatpost-mounted system.
The easy-to-manipulate control for angle of the subject bicycle does double duty as the control for sliding the bike tray – the whole arrangement works well, and is very user friendly. A horizontal access lever holds securely to keep the stand from rotating, and the unit rotates smoothly when the lever is open.
In short, manipulating the position of the subject bicycle with the Prepstand X is easy, convenient and secure.
Most users would have a rear wheel installed while using this stand, but Topeak does provide a dummy hub insert for cases when a rear wheel is not present. This tester cannot keep track of today’s axle standards, but given the huge array of adapters provided with the Prepstand X (standard QR, 12×100, 15×100, 15×110, 20×110 for the front fork, 5×130/135 QR and 12mm thru axle), this tester assumes that most standards can find home with this workstand.
What’s not to love about this excellent workstand? Topeak does not provide quick releases for standard QRs, but this is a minimal annoyance and understandable amid so many modern axle standards, specifically the rise of thru-axles. Users can simply use the appropriate adapter and whatever hardware came with their hub. This tester noticed some rocking while using the combination of an older quick release and the 12-millimeter adapter, but maintained confidence that this stand is a sturdy, portable platform well-suited for vigorous wrenching at home or in the field.
With beefy aluminum tubing, a tapered fork, an eye-melting paint scheme and a digestible price tag, State Bicycle Co.’s Undefeated II checks many attractive boxes for the flamboyant trackie on a budget. Yet the full build of this stiff-sprinting rig includes some head-scratching part choices for riders who specialize in turning left, and those who are considering the Undefeated II as an affordable track racer should consider building up this frame from scratch.
First, the frame: State’s Undefeated II is a 4 pound, 11 ounce (size 62cm) 7005 aluminum platform, with old-school-oversize rounded tube profiles, a new-school tapered headtube and a full-carbon fork. The frame features stainless rear dropout inserts, and trackies will be delighted to know it does not include water bottle bosses.
The paint deserves a mention on its own – you will gasp when you see the sunlight catch what State calls the “black prism” colorway. There are rainbow iridescent flecks all throughout this otherwise murdered-out aesthetic, and the way it catches bright sunlight leaves you lightheaded. Photos just can’t do it justice. It’s spiritual. 10 out of 5 stars.
Ride quality for the Undefeated frame is excellent. At Portland Oregon’s Alpenrose Velodrome, the Undefeated was clearly stiffer than this tester’s old-school steel racing rig. The frame handles hard acceleration with great stability, and the stiffness from the tapered fork was noticeable. At speed, the Undefeated feels very stable and predictable. It’s a frame that just works.
On to the parts list, starting with the highlights. The Undefeated ships with the Essor USA Bolt track wheelset, which includes a semi-aero rim profile and attractive high-flange hubs featuring large cutouts. The hubs turn smoothly, and the wheels feel plenty stiff. State describes this wheelset, at 2,200 grams, as light enough to race but durable enough for the street. I would call these wheels “just fine,” but low hanging fruit for upgrade. The Michelin Dynamic Sports tires wrapping the wheelset are nice and grippy.
The no-name saddle is another unexpected highlight, one I initially wrote off as a fashion statement. The suede surface does a great job gently holding a rider’s rear end in perfect place, and a flared back offers a nice platform for hard efforts. I wonder about long-term durability, but I’ll admit, it was great!
Now for the head scratchers – this 62 centimeter-size Undefeated ships with 175 millimeter crankarms, which many would consider appropriate for an equivalently sized road rig but too long for track use. (Other sizes are spec’d with 170mm crankarms – ed.) This Essor Aerodash crankset marks other positive boxes with a true-to-track chainring sizing and an aerodynamic closed spider design, but this is a part to swap for velodrome use.
The top tube of the Undefeated is also rather short to ship with a stubby 90 millimeter stem, and the wide road handlebars feel out of place for the velodrome.
So add it up: riding this fully built Undefeated at the track means swapping a crank at a minimum, with the possibility of swapping a stem and handlebar to get everything dialed in. Throw in a wheelset upgrade and possibly even a saddle, and you can see how building from scratch is the better option for the track.
State makes no mention of velodrome use in its promotional materials for the Undefeated II, branding this bike as a fixie criterium machine. Yet I argue the frame is a great option for a rider on a budget, costing only $580. Full builds retail for $980, and my 62cm test unit comes in at 17 pounds even.
OPEN’s new WI.D.E gravel steed is getting all the buzz at the moment but the company’s forerunning U.P. is still one heck of a bike to reckon with.
The OPEN x ENVE collaboration started about a year ago with its first limited edition that drew its palette from the mountains around Moab in Southern Utah. Now the two firms are back at it again bringing yet another limited edition U.P., nicknamed the “winter edition” to pay homage to the Swiss Alps where the OPEN was born.
Only 60 are available now for $3790 USD/EUR. You’ll get a frame, fork, headset, ENVE G-Series components (bar, stem, seat post), seat tube collar, front & rear Carbon-Ti thru-axle, 2 derailleur hangers, 1 front derailleur mount, 3 MultiStops (2x, 1x, Di2), chainstay cable exit, BB guide, cable liners, noise-reduction foam sleeves, and of course, a manual.
It’s been exactly one week since I got back from Sea Otter Classic and I am already yearning for more like a hooked gearhead back from CES.
We’ve featured a few pieces of gear in a previous post, and here is more about all the other things I saw. Some gear, but mostly photographs that wouldn’t make it into a story otherwise. I guess you can call it my visual journal.
I loathe going to the North American Handmade Bike Show. IT’s not because the show sucks, but because everything just looks so darn beautiful.
I was admittedly grouchy as I made the trek from San Francisco to Sacramento, yet more than anything, the people, new and old friends, really made the show a whole lot more worthwhile.
Onto the bikes. Well, there were lots of them. Scroll through the gallery and you’ll see why NAHBS is such a fun show even if you have no inclination whatsoever to buy one of these custom steeds. The amount of time the builders, or shall I said wizard artisans, spent in making these ridable show bikes was simply amazing. I hope you enjoy the bikes as much as I do.
Special shoutout to Travis at Paul Component, Dennis at McGovern Cycles, Jeremy at Sycip, Billy at ECHOS, Evan at Alex Rims, and Andrew at Cyclocross Magazine for keeping things light and fun.
Because of my day job I spend an inordinate amount of time riding a road bike. Maybe not a crazy number of miles, but definitely a crazy number of days. Hell, I got a company Pinarello F10 handed to me in the same way I got issued my MacBook Pro. My uniform for work is a full Giordana FRC kit in team colors and I have used the company mechanic far more often than the company IT department.
I occasionally shave my legs, take the random FTP test and visit Steephill.tv on a regular basis to get a dose of the professional race scene, but I also have a subscription to BIKE magazine, love watching mountain bike videos on instagram and find myself ocassionally geeking out over sag percentages and rebound rates.
And never has it been a better time to be a bicyclist in the off-season. The amount of fodder to pour over is at an all-time high. You have your traditional books and magazine, you have podcast and youtube channels, you have online training tools like Zwift and TrainerRoad and Sufferfest and you have Strava to not only track everything you do, but the ability to stalk all your friends, neighbors and even the professionals who let you peak at there impressive numbers.
All this is to say I have spent an inordinate amount of time this winter reading training articles, listening to mountain bike podcasts, studying workout charts and generally geeking out over all things bicycle.
And what I’ve concluded is I desperately want a new mountain bike.
And buying a new mountain bike right now should be a no-brainer. No one is making a bad bicycle right now. Whether that be a mountain bike or a road bike or a gravel bike, the bicycles of 2019 are amazing. From the shifting to the braking to the geometry, bicycles right now are better than they have ever been.
Which is both a blessing and a curse.
If all the bikes are great, then how does one pick a new whip? And to make the task of picking a new mountain bike even more daunting the people who ride mountain bikers, come in more varietals than grapes. You have your enduro riders, cross-country rides, downhill riders, down-country riders, short track experts, freeriders, single-speeders and your garden variety trail rider. And there is a bike for each and everyone of them.
So here is what I’ve learned about the modern mountain bikes, so far. 100mm is plenty of travel. 150mm is not enough travel. 130mm is the new 145mm. 180mm hardtails are the new singlespeed. Having longer travel upfront is better than having the same travel front and rear, unless having the same travel is better than the other way around. And hardtails are great unless you have one.
And thus, if I may summarize, the mountain bike shopper is looking for a one-quiver bicycle and as far as I can tell it does not exist. If you want to race, you need a cross-country bike which is short on travel and light on weight or at least a trail bike that has a solid pedaling platform, that climbs really well. And if you want to trail ride our need a cross-country bike that is a little slacker and descends well or an enduro bike with cross country tendencies. Not to mention that if you live in some place flat, but aspire to hit the bike parks for some big hucks then you will want something that pedals really well, has a reasonable amount of travel, but rides like a much bigger sled.
Now once you have picked out the perfect mountain bike for your riding conditions you are going to have to make some serious calculation and decisions about how you will set up your suspension. Do you want small bump compliance or do you want a bottomless feel to your whip. Do you want aggressive rebound over stutter clutter and/or big hit plushness. Should you be running a coil shock, are you going to nerd out over rebound and compression and therefore want a shock with a myriad of adjustment or are you a set it and forget it kind of guy. Then we have stem length, saddle setback, dropper post drop, bar width and water bottle placement.
Oh wait, even before all this you need to decide if you want a 29er, a 27.5er or maybe you picture yourself as a 27.5+ kind of pedaler. The 29er is faster unless you are riding in the tighter slower sections then they are apparently slower and more cumbersome. And the 27.5er is faster unless you are in the faster sections and then they are slower. And they are more fun unless you are riding faster sections, then they are less fun. Finally, the 27.5+ is more confidence inspiring and possibly faster in trickier sections with more grip, but can also be difficult because they can feel uncertain while being certainly fun.
Of course, this leads us to tires and tire pressure. Softer rubber offers more grip, but also wears faster and can be a bit pricey. Harder rubber is good for certain conditions and certain days and then bigger tires with lower tire pressures being great for some conditions on some days and you will need a tire with wider spread tread for those other days on other conditions. This, of course, will all become much clearer once you have added your Quark Tyre Wiz monitors and start to parse the data.
Which brings us to another crucial question. Are you Shimano rider or SRAM devotee? Is the bird the word? Or are you still of the belief 2x drivetrains make for a better riding experience? And what about the conundrum of whether you are in the Rock Shox or the Fox Factory Racing camp. Or maybe you like the idea of running a smaller companies suspension: Marzocchi, DVO, Cane Creek or maybe Manitou.
I have weighed all of these things, done all the research, watched all the videos and have narrowed my choice down to three bicycles. They are, in no particular order, the Yeti SB6, the Santa Cruz Hightower 27.5+ and the Scott Spark RC 900. Which is to say, I have literally no idea what bike I should be riding.
I’m battling two very clear schools of thought at this juncture. The first being there is something comforting about being way over-biked for almost all conditions. Which explains my love of the Yeti. It runs on 27.5 inch wheels, has 6 inches of travel, climbs surprisingly well and under almost no circumstances would I ever take full advantage of all the craziness it is capable of getting one into. I would be so over-biked as to be embarrassing.
Which brings us to the second school of thought, which is to buy the bike for the type of riding you actually do. Which for me, at the moment is a lot of pedaling with my beloved labrador, Carter Whitney, and mostly Cross Country types of trails. Which brings us the Scott Spark RC. The bike rolls 100mm of travel front and back, is whisper light and has just a enough rowdie built-in to make it’s race specific pedigree a blast to blast. I road one of these steeds at last years Barner Burner and it is all that and a bag of chips.
And finally we come to the school of thought I had not discovered in all of my research, which is the Holy Shit I love this thing and it makes no sense at all. But this bike is a blast. I borrowed my friend Tony’s Hightower, which is all blinged out with the Eagle drivetrain, the Fox Factory fork with the Fit4 damper and Float DPX2 shock and giant carbon hoops from Enve. Sitting on it, looking down at those giant WBR tires I was figuring it was going to be like spending the day on a clown bike. How less right could I have been? Certainly, the 27.5+ tires didn’t make it climb like the Spark, but it went up just fine. Climbing and clambering over everything I could ram it into and when the trail turned sloshy, rooty and steep it was nothing but a ripping good time.
So I am so close to making a decision. I just need to test ride the Evil Following MB, the Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works 29, the Yeti SB130, the Trek Fuel EX, the Cannondale Bad Habit, the Spot Mayhem 29, the BMC Fourstroke, the Ibis Ripmo…
Our next installment will take on the hot button topics of baggy shorts vs. lycra, full face helmet vs. enduro lids and the backpack vs. fanny pack vs. no pack conundrum.
Like many of cycling’s iconic brands, the storied pumpmaker Silca evokes a certain emotional response. A well-used Silca floor pump is a necessary component in the mind’s conjuring of an imagined bicycle shop, an essential piece that inspires wonder of the countless tasks it endured, happily, over many decades of service. It is Fausto Coppi. It is driving hours to rainy road races. It is growing up in the saddle. It is timeless, and perhaps the most intriguing bicycle brand story in recent memory was when the nearly century-old family company uprooted from Italy to become an innovative American firm under new ownership.
As the latest offering in the reborn Silca’s growing floor pump lineup, the SuperPista Digital augments the decadent innards of yore with a crisp, colorful digital gauge. Deviating slightly from a familiar silhouette in the pursuit of updated usability, the latest SuperPista doles mercy to those who anguish over tire pressure – and muscular support for the workaday mechanic – in equal aplomb. It is the digital-native Millennial daughter of Italian immigrants, raised on motorsports and Merckx, and notably diversifies Silca’s excellence in several significant ways.
Firstly, and most notably, is the prominent digital gauge of this new SuperPista.
The illuminated and colorful display springs to life automatically when it senses pressure, bright-red digits in precise contrast to a white background. The display measures to one-tenth in pounds per square inch, one-hundredth in barometric pressure and again one-hundredth in kilograms per square centimeter. It is rated up to 220 psi, suitable for perfectionist cross racers and trackies alike.
The display includes a preset function that will flash once the user reaches a target pressure, as well as a battery life gauge, all cast in sharp blacks, reds, blues and greens. The display automatically cuts the illumination and reverts to a monochrome mode after about a minute of disuse, and both modes render clearly when viewed from all angles. The display fully deactivates in about five minutes, ready to spring to life again upon sensing pressure or a quick toggle of the three-button interface. The gauge operates on two small CR2032 batteries, which according to Silca, should provide around 100 hours of use.
The digital gauge is newsworthy on its own in comparison to Silca’s classic analogue approach. Yet the display doesn’t appear to exist for its own sake, but is rather a means to accomplish an updated form factor overall.
Where Silca’s other floor pumps locate the gauge at the base of the barrel, the SuperPista Digital’s clear readout sits at the top of the barrel about three feet above the floor. This greatly improves readability in low-light conditions, and is a welcome touch for the wrench whose eyesight is not as good as it used to be.
The Digital is also the first Silca pump that appears to be purpose-built for the company’s celebrated Hiro chuck. Unlike the classic and simple push-on Silca chuck, the Hiro slips easily over valve stems and clamps securely via a side-lever. Users can dial in the clamping force for the Hiro’s gasket, creating a more secure interface for high-pressure applications.
While the Hiro now comes standard on the top-of-the-line SuperPista Ultimate pump, the magnetic dock on the Ultimate still appears sized for the classic chuck design. For the Digital, the Hiro fits neatly into a recess just under the gauge. The effectively puts all controls for the pump, including the ash-wood handle, on a single dashboard, and limits the need to bend over. This could be a nice touch while servicing bikes on a workstand. A secondary magnetic dock exists at the base, and a separate Schrader chuck exists in-line with the hose.
The hosing for this model begins near the top of the barrel, and users droop the hose under a near-floor catch before fixing the chuck, under tension, to the magnetic dock. This is a departure from the classic routing that passes over the handle before returning to the base, which also keeps the handle from extending. Silca added an extra strap to the Digital to retain the handle and prevent it from extending under transport, and the strap appears easily removable.
The Digital’s base is large, heavy and stable, prepared for hard use and friendly to cleated feet. The pump uses a leather plunger and a plated steel piston, and Silca describes the pump as “more like a suspension fork than a traditional pump.”
In two months of constant use, the SuperPista Digital has become a close companion for this tester and dissolved, through sheer joy of use, some of my romantic’s loyalty to the classic Silca design. The aerospace-esque barrel shape and murdered-out color scheme is a big departure from the vintage charm of older models, but one century on, it’s great to see today’s Silca offering a thoughtful augmentation of tradition. Form follows function for this model.
I think, when you tally up the features for sheer usability, that the SuperPista Digital is superior (gasp!) to the original Silca design and even the premium-material SuperPista Ultimate. In the poor lighting conditions of the early morning and the grey light of the Pacific Northwest, the digital display is a delight. The seemingly slight tweaks to the form factor add up to measurable improvements in user experience, and the Digital, at $275, is significantly more affordable than the $450 SuperPista Ultimate. Still, $275 is hugely more expensive than Silca’s $100 Pista model and scores of non-Silca alternatives that accomplish, seemingly, the same task.
So who is the target audience for the SuperPista Digital? In my opinion, this pump is meant for someone who spends countless hours a year in the saddle, the kind of person who would get better value on a use-per-dollar basis with the Digital than the average rider would on another more affordable floor pump. It is for the no-nonsense rider who knows – but doesn’t dwell on – the mythology of cycling, someone who views the bicycle as a tool for personal experience and athletic achievement. This is a pump for someone who spends as much time pumping tires as some people spend riding.
It is hard to comment on the longevity of the SuperPista Digital after only two months of use, particularly when the manufacturer’s reputation for durability is measured in decades. Will the Digital become a classic for the new century of Silca, a family heirloom, an essential part of bike shop milieu? Time will tell, but kudos to Silca for honoring tradition while pushing the envelope for what is possible with a humble floor pump.
When I was told a few weeks ago that Goodyear was making a comeback into the bicycle tire business, I had to look up what they meant by “comeback”.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know that Goodyear wasn’t in the bicycle business. With companies like Continental, Michelin and Maxxis knee deep into bike tires, you’d think Goodyear, the third largest tire manufacturer in the world, would be in the game in some shape or form.
Well, they were. As a matter of fact, the Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear produced bicycle tires from the company’s founding in 1898 up until 1976.
So unlike Michael Jordan’s one year “retirement” from the NBA, or Johnny Manziel and Dave Chappelle, it’s been 42 years. But guess who’s back, back again? Goodyear is back. Tell a friend. Thank you Eminem for that sweet quote.
While Goodyear’s new lineup consists of nine tires, I am just going to focus on the road-going Eagle.
That’s right, the sole road tire in Goodyear’s lineup shares the same name as the company’s better known racing rubbers both previously seen in Formula One and currently seen in NASCAR… and most likely as OEM tires in some cars. In fact, Goodyear even used the same font to label “Eagle” on the sidewall. Okay, I get it. The Eagle has a deep, high-performance heritage.
And Goodyear was kind enough to send us a pair in 25c to play with before the launch.
Our test samples weigh 310 and 311 grams, just a tad over the claimed 300 grams for the 25C tire. Installation was pretty straight forward. I was told the Eagle is mountable with just a floor pump. I managed to get one of the two tires inflated with no sealant while the second tire needed just a tiny bit of sealant and compressed air from my Bontrager TLR Flash Charger. There wasn’t any overnight leakage, either. I did, however, injected some sealant into that one dry tire for extra insurance before my first outing.
My first ride using the tires was a 70-mile stroll following the weekend’s atmospheric river that caused some minor flooding, downed trees, and well, unpredictable road conditions that left me yearning for those disc brakes on the Focus Paralane I just sent back and I almost went to IKEA instead of riding. Not your ideal day to try out tires for the first time, or was it?
So off I went. Rolling down this 10% hill right outside of my house. The Eagle felt supple, dare I say even better than the Zipp Tangente RT25 I just came off of, or the stable Schwalbe Pro One 25s. Goodyear ostensibly didn’t include much info such as the tpi of the casing used, but did mentioned the inclusion of a Nylon-based fabric from bead to bead called R:Armor to combat against cuts on punctures.
Interestingly enough, the Eagle didn’t balloon as much as the other two tires, measuring at 25.55 and 26.17mm on our Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 rim-braked wheels. It’s definitely a welcoming tidbit if you don’t have a lot of tire clearance.
Not long after I navigated out across the slippery Golden Gate Bridge, I ran across this broken Jameson bottle in Sausalito. Last time I rode on wet road with glass, the glass won so I was waiting to hear the tell-tale hiss. Nope. Nothing. The show went on.
The more miles I rode on the Eagle, the more I trusted its capability. The proprietary silca-based Dynamic:Silica4 compound designed with a smooth center for low rolling resistance felt lively and comfortable at 90psi.
And that “best in class wet grip” Goodyear claims to have is pretty darn good too. The Eagle handled water graciously with its directional sipes on the edges and grooves to channel water from the center. I’d like to see the comparison chart, though.
It’s still too early to comment on the long-term durability of the Eagle but it’s looking pretty promising so far. So stay tuned for our long-term report. The Eagle retails for $70 in four widths: 25, 28, 30, and 32. The 30mm and 32mm will also come with a second version that includes reflective strip all the way around the tire.
The Paint. That’s right, the paint. It was the paint job on this steed that first caught my attention.
Sure, this is a terrible and vain thing to say, but the paint on this Focus Paralane was truly eye catching at the InterBike media preview night last fall (more on the paint later).
If you’ve never been to one of these preview nights, let me tell you, what gets shown is usually anyone’s guess. You see a whole lot of e-bikes, questionable contraptions, and a tiny bit of sensible stuff.
So there I was hopping between booths and the Paralane was literally chilling next to the Focus booth. The booth guys were pushing a really nice e-bike, but I couldn’t help but be curious about this brightly-colored endurance steed.
To be honest, endurance bikes, much like the American crossovers monstrosity (RIP station wagons), have never really enticed me. I am comfortable on my professionally-fitted road bike, I don’t intend to give that up anytime soon, and I love my station wagon.
Alas, a lot has changed since the introduction of the endurance bike segment and bicycles that fall within this growing category are pretty darn good these days. Standouts such as the Specialized Roubaix, Cannondale Synapse, and Trek Domane are just as fast, if not faster, than their pure-bred racing brethren in such that the line between a road bike and an endurance bike is so blurred, so difficult to ignore, just like the sentiment I got when I was shopping for a SUV recently and inevitably ended up looking at a bunch of crossovers. That’s not counting gravel bikes, either.
So I put in a request to review the bike. Then things got busy and I completely forgot about it. So imagine the surprise when the Paralane unexpectedly showed up one morning in early December. Maybe it was a bit of #newbikeday hype or maybe because, unlike Roubaix or the Domanae, I just didn’t know much about this bike.
It has been almost four months since I’ve swung my legs over the Paralane, and even though I love it so much, it was not without its quirks, or shall I say, quirky personality.
The Paralane that Focus sent over came with all the bells and whistles one would expect for $7,999. A lightweight disc-only carbon fiber frame with shaped Comfort Improving Areas (C.I.A), a stiff BB86 bottom bracket for power, 142×12 and 100×10 thru-axles coupled with Focus’ proprietary Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to secure the wheels, with integrated internal cable routings.
Flatten chainstays to absorb vertical bumps.
Sculpted carbon forks for ride comfort.
Room for up to 35c tires.
Focus' own Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to enable faster wheel change.
A quarter turn is all that's needed to secure the wheels
The stock Prologo Scratch saddle was comfortable but also heavy
Zipp Course 30 wheels with 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4 season rubbers
A clean cockpit with minimal wirings.
Our bike was kitted with a full SRAM RED eTap HRD compact group set, an Easton EC90 Aero handlebar, a Prologo Scratch saddle mounted and a unique-looking 25.4mm BBB CPX Plus carbon seatpost that’s not to be confused with LaVar’s BBB brand.
The only item that was not factory spec was the aluminum Zipp 30 Course Clincher (with factory spec 28mm Continental GP 4 Seasons). The bike will come with the Zipp 302 carbon clinchers and for comparison purposes, we spent half of our testing period on our benchmark Stan’s Avion Pro hoops with 25mm Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires. As an added bonus, the Paralane also ships with removal mudguards.
One thing that immediately made an impression was the taller headtube along with its generous, relaxed geometry. Much to my lower back’s delight, I get to sit a bit more upright at the expense of losing a few watts for not being aerodynamic, but that’s not what this bike is designed for anyway.
According to Focus, the Paralane was intended for “leisure cyclists who like to spend longer in the saddle and don’t mind unsurfaced roads.” Well, that couldn’t be more true given its generous 50/34 compact crankset and 11-32 cassette. Yet the Paralane is so much more than a leisure machine that labeling it as such almost feels like I am sandbagging. The Paralane is one flippin’ fast steed that you can totally race with.
On the less than perfect NorCal roads, the Paralane is smooth, responsive, and stable at high-speeds. Those Comfort Improving Areas, a.k.a shaped stays, worked as advertised to soak up all the shitty road buzz without the need of any suspension elements. The bike has handling that’s direct and firm like an expertly tuned car worthy of the autobahn. Coupled with the powerful SRAM hydraulic disc brakes, the bike accelerates as well as it can stop on a dime.
I found that the more I cranked up the distance, the more efficient of a bike it was. My body didn’t scream at me (as much) at the end of those 100+ mile rides. Those 28mm Continental GP 4 Season weren’t only long lasting but also grippy in all-weather, performing admirably when I took them off the asphalt for some light gravel rides. SRAM’s eTap has also grown on me tremendously with its car-like paddle shifters as well. I really like its crisp, mistake-free touch and the ergonomics finally feel right.
I do wish there was more bar tape than just on the drops though, as the bare wing top, while gorgeous to look at, was slippery to behold. It’s a comfortable and stiff handlebar one would expect from Easton, but I would argue that an endurance bike like this one can be benefitted with more secure and padded hand positions, especially if unsurfaced roads are frequently visited.
Coming in at 16.9 lbs with the shipped wheels and 16.19 lbs with Stan’s Avion Pro/ 25c Schwalbe Pro One tubeless, with Shimano Ultegra pedals installed on both setups, the Paralane can obviously be lightened up a notch given Focus claims a painted 54cm frame weighs 907 grams minus the R.A.T thru axle. I truly believe doing so will further unlock the bike’s potential. Regardless of its weight, though, the Paralane has quickly become my favorite go-to bike to log those early season miles regardless of weather. The longer the ride, the more this bike’s personality shines. With the bike’s decidedly worry-free parts and the BB86 bottom bracket that didn’t creak once during the four month test period, my personal SuperSix Evo was starting to feel left out.
And that eyecatching, colorful paint job matches nicely with just about all of my questionably, colorful kit choices.
The first time I saw Velocio kit in the flesh, it was on Ted King. As clothes hangers go, a pro cyclist could make almost any old rags look good, but his outfit stood out on its own merits. The colours were subtle. There were no funky, clashing technical panels. And you had to squint to read the branding. To me, that’s the holy trinity of bike kit fashion.
When I got my hands on an ES Jacket and some thermal bibs – my own, not Ted’s – it stood out again. Clean lines, a great fit, and subtle reflective touches to offset what is otherwise pure black. The jacket is light, making me doubtful of the claims that it would work with just a base layer down towards freezing. I was wrong.
The “spring” mornings around here have been frosty and I haven’t once felt a chill. It also stands up well to strong winds and rain showers. Really well. So well, I’m smug about it riding past shivering cyclists. I’m not sure how much use I’ll get from the two-way zip, but it’s a nice feature that might as well be there as not, and I’m sure someone will love it for their own reasons.
I’ll bet on the bibshorts being comfortable no matter what you throw at them, even though rides so far have been short – anything more than a couple of hours when it’s 4º or 5º celsius isn’t my thing. The pad is cushy and they’re well-made. The only critique I’d offer is that the raised lettering printed on the lower leg began to show signs of peeling after just one wash. Personally, I’m fine with taking it all off and having the shorts totally plain, but I’d imagine it might upset some people to buy a high-end pair of bibs only to have them looking less than pristine almost immediately.
They are thermal and I’ve been pairing them with leg warmers, but unless you’re riding in real summer heat they’re not so thick that they’d turn you into a sweaty mess. Here in northern Europe, I think they’ll be usable all year on all but the hottest days. The pad is worth another mention, too, because it comes up higher in the front, providing some modesty insurance to anyone who’s ever worried about showing the coffee shop a little too much. The non-riding half of my household thinks this is a major plus.
I have a wardrobe full of every kind of bike kit, from eye-wateringly tacky event jerseys and some gear from my old club that’s so eurotrash it would make Mario Cipollini blush, to the latest and greatest from the all the big brands. And it’s all good. But the thing is, I stick to the staples. Choice cuts from Giordana, Sportful, and Castelli. Everything else comes and goes, but I always revert back to the most reliable rotation. This Velocio kit is now part of that list.