Spurcycle doesn’t make a whole lot of things. Five, to be exact and that’s not counting the trio of brilliant condiment-inspired water bottles.
But as the saying less is more goes, it’s obvious that Spurcycle is very good at crafting minimalistic accessories that are as beautiful as they are functional. The newest addition to the Spurcycle family, the saddle bag, is no different.
Aptly named “Saddle Bag,” the San Francisco firm didn’t slap no novel French name or a cool oh wow marketing copy to go along with it. Instead, what we have here is a no-BS bag for $45 that is simple yet practical and makes me wonder why this didn’t happen sooner.
At first glance, the Saddle Bag resembles a fold up, top-loading lunch bag sewn on with a Velcro strap. Simple, right? What’s not so obvious is that the choice of material used, X-Pac VX42, is anything but simple. It is a rugged multi-ply lamination consisting of a layer of 420 denier Cordura nylon, a tell-tale diamond-pattern monofilm reinforcement, weatherproof film and finally, a 50 denier polyester backing. There’s much more going on than what meets the eye.
Spurcycle employs a removable and noticeably long hook and loop strap with a reinforced section to put over the saddle rail. The low profile hook and loops mean the strap won’t put up a huge fight whenever you take it on and off but remains strong enough to keep its contents secure. For further peace of mind, Spurcycle also placed two security tabs running perpendicularly across the strap to prevent any unintended undoings. And to be honest, there was plenty of interlocking hook and loop to go around that it would take a herculean effort or a severely overfilled bag to lose it. Nevertheless, the extra security tabs don’t add much, if any, bulk so why not. If you are one of those people who insists on reading instructions, the black-on-black instruction card was difficult to read. Thankfully, instructions are also available on the Spurcycle website and the company is planning to remedy that in the next batch.
Compared to many compartmentalized roll-styled bags, the solo compartment design of the Spurcycle bag immediately jumped out, as there was still plenty of space left after I transferred all the contents over from the excellent Silca Roll Premio. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of slots for individual items to channel my inner OCD, but I can now have the option to add or remove accessories depending on the ride and not be limited by the size of pre-determined organizer slots. In keeping a small footprint, I also found that I could easily place bulky items such as CO2 canisters in specific spots within the bag so that they would fit between the saddle rails.
Inevitably, the single compartment also means that all the contents will be bunched together so any pointy objects such as multi-tools should be shielded from sensitive objects like spare inner tubes (a paper towel works great, plus it’s handy to have around at times). But to be fair, that’s not the fault of the bag and it’s a small tradeoff for having a flexible, shape-shifting storage system.
As someone who has tried dozens of different tires, I’ve yet to find a model that genuinely stands out for performance. In fact, I figured all modern “race” tires were more or less the same. That has changed with the Pirelli P Zero Velo TT.
Easily the best-performing clincher tire I’ve ever used, the Pirelli P Zero Velo TT is an incredibly fast, grippy and lightweight option that inspires great confidence in handling and achieves great speed in acceleration. Devoid of tread and lacking any puncture-resistant band, this 165-gram, 23mm-only tire is a great choice for time trialists, criterium racers, trackies and anyone looking to go as fast as their legs will carry them.
This tester has grown accustomed to the tiny squeaks of his usual clincher tires while traversing the 43-degree banking of Portland Oregon’s Alpenrose Velodrome at slower speeds. That sound, I assume, is the product of tiny slips of the tire. Yet the Velo TT simply planted on the pavement, and this tester could ride much more confidently and with more safety along that familiar surface. The difference was startling.
This isn’t a tire for going slowly, though. The Velo TT spins up with a great ease due to very light weight, and the tire smooths out bumps on high-speed sprints. Foreshadowing this ride quality was the experience of simply installing the tires, which are incredibly supple and mounted easily.
In such a controlled environment, it’s hard to evaluate puncture resistance. Pirelli offers several models with puncture-resistant features, and while the company claims the compound of the Velo TT can resist punctures to a degree, I believe it’s safe to assume other options would be more suited to long rides or races.
Yet across a well-manicured surface during a criterium, time trial or track race, the P Zero Velo TT will provide an undeniable advantage.
I was never a cargo bike kind of guy. I never had an interest or a need for one. An e-cargo bike? You’ve got to be kidding me, and that’s not a knock against e-bikes. In fact, I think e-bikes are cool for all its intended purposes.
But here I was staring at one at the 2017 InterBike. Gosh I don’t know why I am looking at it.
I’ve just been bombarded with a lot of eBikes that follow more or less the same formula: a heavy boring frame slapped with some equally boring motor unit with triple digit range per charge. You can only hear pitches about the same power unit from people so many times. However, this pastel blue GSD from Tern is different. It’s got 20 inch wells, could stand on its own like the statue of liberty, adjustable to be used by family members (or housemates, bros, whatever) between 4’9” to 6’3”, integrated front and rear lights, can be loaded with panniers, a front rack for a milk crate-type box… and dual baby seats.
Am I looking at an e-bus then? Despite my reservations, I decided to try one out. Months later, a Tern rep literally dropped one off at my house, fully charged and ready to go.
I had three weeks to ride it around town to buy groceries and take my toddler son out for a spin. I am certain it’s the heaviest bike that I’ve ever ridden, save for one of those silly four person tourist trap rental bikes that you instantly regret the moment you pay for it. Tern gave me a model with dual batteries with an extended range up to 150 miles. A range that theoretically would be sufficient to do a round trip down to Silicon Valley and back in one charge, but that also means it’s heavier than the specified 60lbs weight with a single battery to power this aluminum-frame rated to carry up to 400lbs. There’s no fancy carbon fiber handlebar or titanium-bolted stems here. Its stock components tend to weigh a little more for the sake of safety and durability. It’s got a comfortable seat, equally comfortable Ergon grips, and a pair of regular shoe and shin friendly pedals. It’s really a SUV on two wheels.
Comfy Ergon ergonomic grips.
Shoe and shin friendly pedals. Personally I'd go for something grippier such as the Shimano PD-MX80, though.
Durable Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires with reflective piping on both sides
Magura MT5 levers felt solid in my hands and were problem free.
Clutched Shimano Shadow+ rear derailleur to accommodate one very long chain
Release the spring-loaded cord at the bottom and you will be able to reverse the front wheel to save space.
Retractable foot pegs on the rear rack
Following that train of thought, there’s a sense of invincibility whenever I take it out for a “spin.” Yet unlike your below average SUV, the GSD, given its heft and upright geometry, is surprisingly nimble to maneuver. I am sure its low center of gravity and the fact that its wheelbase, despite its elongated appearance, is ever so slightly longer than a standard bike, beefy Boost thru-axles and fat 2.4″ Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires all contribute to its stability.
I love the Bosch Performance Line drivetrain. Power was smoothly delivered whenever I needed it. While I think Bosch can improve user experience by reworking those clunky buttons and display, it nevertheless worked as advertised in giving me five different case modes from gently assisting my walk-a-bike effort (handy to maneuver the GSD to a bike lockup) to full blown turbo mode that gives the most ooomph. I found myself using the turbo mode during my test for the maximum power assist and a more lively, responsive feel, but I did find myself switching to touring or economic mode more whenever I am going downhill or once I am rolling on speed.
One thing that I’ve learned is that the GSD likes to cruise steadily while seated and is a far more enjoyable ride to stay around 20 mph where the power assist cuts off. The power cutoff brings back the abrupt reality that this is one hefty bike, no matter how much power I crank into the clutched Shimano 1×10 drivetrain with a 11-36 cassette. I might not be getting a full human-powered workout, but I can do grocery runs while remaining relatively sweat free. The LCD display also controls the integrated front and rear light, and the four-piston Magura MT5 hydraulic disc brakes were amazing. Paired with 180mm rotors, The MT5 modulated nicely and I was able to stop on a dime considering all that heft with no audible brake squeal. The kickstand takes a bit of practice but it was rock steady while loading groceries.
Besides being a badass grocery hauler, I loved bringing my son out on the bike. The utilitarian racks allowed me to install the Thule Yepp Nexxt Maxi seat much closer to me than a towing trailer ever would be for better handling without the extra distance between me and my son. It’s nice to be able to not have to yell in order to hear each other while riding. My son couldn’t stop smiling and laughing during his first ride, a 15 minute trip, to our favorite grocery store. With a half-mile uphill kicker averaging 9%, I never thought of taking my kid along on a towing trailer, but it was a no-brianer with the GSD. The little dude was actually saddened to see the bike go back a few weeks later and said “why don’t you just buy one.” I don’t know if there’s a better incentive to buy a bike than that.
With a starting price of $3,999, it costs about the same as a very good road bike, a reliable motorcycle, or a child’s daycare expenses and it definitely commands a deeper commitment than a regular bicycle. If you’re in the market for an e-cargo bike, however, the GSD is one well-made machine designed for the long haul. For 2019, Tern will be adding a higher performance model with a higher-torque Bosch Performance Line CX motor along with a higher energy battery, a heavy duty Enviolo N380x cargo hub, and an integrated Abus wheel lock for additional security with a starting price of $4,995.
We’re big fans of FiftyOne. They make custom frames and have a reputation for creating bespoke carbon beauties in Dublin, Ireland. In the past, we’ve drooled over their Conor McGregor bike, complete with 24-carat gold leaf. And we’ve chatted with the company’s founder Aidan Duff. So when news of this limited-edition gravel grinder came from Eurobike, we had to share.
Their latest project takes its name from Alphonse Steinès, the Luxembourgish journalist who served as assistant director to Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour de France. Steinès’ was mad about mountains, and felt that to really test the riders, the Tour had to ditch its mainly flat parcours in favour of something a lot more hilly.
“Very good road”
After some early success in the foothills of the Alps, Desgrange allowed his deputy to get creative, and so in 1910 he set off to the French Pyrenees. While trying to cross the Tourmalet in heavy snow, his car ended up in a ditch and he only narrowly avoided a frosty death thanks to a late-night rescue party. Undeterred, he sent an enthusiastic, and somewhat dishonest, telegram from the hospital: “Crossed Tourmalet. Very good road. Perfectly feasible.” The rest is history.
The bike has that quote emblazoned on the top tube, with some poetry on the down tube for good measure. And unlike their thoroughbred race bikes, this steed is ready to get rough on even the grizzliest of back roads. It’s a disc-brake frame with clearance for 43mm tires.
The wider clearances on a lot of gravel bikes means that you can’t always fit a standard road crank, but the Steinès will take a 52-tooth chainring. 1x might be a great option for a lot of riders, but it’s nice to have the 2x versatility on offer because it makes this a capable road machine too.
It’s a collaboration with Enve, to celebrate the company’s hot new G23 wheelset. They also make the tubing. If all that isn’t desirable enough, only 10 will be made – to the owner’s spec, obviously. We’ve started saving.
We’ve all been there. You’re watching a bike race and you can’t help but think, “What kind of shower head does Peter Sagan use?” Well, wonder no more. We can now definitively say that he likes the really fancy kind, which handily comes from one of his team’s main sponsors, Hansgrohe.
To celebrate this year’s Tour de France, the German company has released a limited edition one, complete with three settings and Sagan’s own logo printed on top. Our very own Jim Merithew has a problem with that fact, because he says he doesn’t want to think of the Slovakian hosing him down while he’s in the shower. Jim has issues though – inadequacy, maybe? – so I ignored him and installed it anyway.
It’s listed as a hand shower, but after some extensive testing (possibly brought on by a need to feel clean after watching the TV ad campaign featuring the three-time World Champion rinsing himself off in slow-motion) I can report that it works equally well in a shower mount, too. Will it make you faster? No. Do you still want one? Admit it, you do.
Newcomers to the cycling world might be a little confused, but when it comes to weird marketing, no one does it better than the professional peloton. To offer just a few examples: Eddy Merckx used to sell cigarettes. Miguel Indurain really likes chainsaws. The late Marco Pantani swapped his bike for a Citroën for a group ride back in ’98, and everyone’s favorite Dutchman Laurens ten Dam loves a barbecue. There was also an odd pillow fight at the Etixx-QuickStep team a few years back to promote a mattress maker. And of course, Marcel Kittel, aided by his caffeinated coiffure, is currently fighting for strong hair. For this writer’s money though, the G.O.A.T has to be Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali cooking a pair of Sidi shoes. Because Italy.
PS: If you have any more ads that I’ve missed, hit me up @ColliOBrien on Twitter.
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.
In just a blink of an eye, we are already two months into 2018. The Super Bowl has come and gone, Cross Worlds is over and done with and the Coast Ride is already a distant memory. How has your riding been so far?
I know it’s still technically considered “deep winter” for the better part of the country and that it wouldn’t be right to break out the short sleeves just yet. But spring is coming, and here are a few pieces of gear that I’m looking forward to rocking this year.
Time has been making their ATAC (Auto Tension Adjust Concept) pedals for as long as I can remember. I still have my very first pair after 15 years of abuse racing mountain bikes, cyclocross, or running late to meet up friends at coffee shops across town. I love them for their ease of entry and the fact that mud has nothing on them so I can always stay clipped in. The ATAC’s generous 6mm lateral and +/- 5º float are easy on my sensitive knees. Like all pedals, there’s a familiarization time to get acquainted with them but they are now second nature and for me they really are the ultimate set ’em and forget ’em pedals. Their low-profile cleats are reversible to provide either a 13º or 17º of release angle to your own liking, as well. The made in France ATAC XC6 is right in the middle of the ATAC lineup which is essentially the happy medium between price ($150) and weight (293 grams).
When I was at an industry ride last year, I was told saddlebags are lame. Well, I don’t care. I like my saddlebag and I prefer to have a second water bottle. My Jandd was finally showing its age so I replaced it with a Silca Seat Roll Premio. I love the durable waxed canvas material and three-pocket design allowing me to separate my tubes, mini tool and CO2 cartridge, so I don’t have to resort to a sad ziplock baggie or worry about tools rubbing on the tube. It’s also waterproof and the quilted reflective thread is a nice touch. My favorite part about the $48 Premio, however, is the Boa enclosure system. I am not sure why no one put a Boa on a saddle bag sooner, but it’s such a brilliant move. The Boa allows for more adjustments than traditional hook-and-loops so I can really tighten it down onto the saddle rail. There’s also a button at the end of the enclosure for extra security. I can attest to its effectiveness after I forgot to close the Boa before going on a 45+ mph run down Olympic Parkway in Park City.
I’ve been using this double-walled vacuum insulation bottle for a little over a year now and it officially my go-to bottle. Its 18/8 stainless steel construction has a few dents and dings from repeated trial-by-fire beating by myself, the wife and the kids combined, but it still works like it did on day one, in keeping beverages chilled or hot. The powder-coated finish has proven to be very durable too.
The 40 oz version is so ginormous I have yet to track down a cupholder big enough to hold it, but whatevs, I love this bottle. The angled, BPA-free spout cap is designed to be snapped into the handle and it’s quite a nice touch once you get used to it. If the 40 oz is just too big to stow your coffee, sake, whisky, or water, CamelBak also makes a smaller 20 oz version.
Seriously, bar tape deserves more attention. Think about it. Those crucial few millimeters of padding between your hands and the handlebar make a world of difference. Your hands are either slipping off the bar or the tape is working so well you don’t even think about it. Forté Grip-Tec was my tape of choice for the last few seasons, but Lizard Skins has recently won my heart over with their DSP bar tape. The DSP tape comes in 3 different thicknesses: 1.8mm to shave off a few grams and have a better road feel, 2.5mm for a balance of cushion and grip, or 3.2mm if you’re looking for that maximum cush without the need for awkward gel pads. I personally run the 2.5mm on my road bike and 3.2mm on my cross/gravel machine. The DSP tape is available in a plethora of colors including solid, dual, and camo.
Commuting around San Francisco continues to be a pretty dicey affair, but the Proviz REFLECT360 CRS Plus vest, or gilets for all my European friends, will brighten things up for you and have you poppin’ when things turn dark. The Reflect 360 has a typical mesh cycling vest look but what makes it stand out are the millions of embedded glass beads that instantly reflect light. It’s so bright, in fact, it’s almost impossible to ignore this giant reflective blob. The tailor-cut fabric is waterproof and retains just enough warmth in combination with the micro-thermal fleece collar for those early morning rides to work.
Honestly Boyd‘s wingnut is just a tire valve with a wingnut-shaped nut instead of a typical round knurled nut but it’s such a ingenious move. I can now easily tighten AND loosen my tubeless valve without tools and without losing my mind. So simple, yet so effective. Get some. You’re welcome.
My 29er needed a new chain ring last year so I thought I’d give an elliptical ring a shot. I was a skeptic of the benefit of oval rings because they sounded way too good to be true. My teammate told me he could feel the increased traction. Okay, you got me there. The one I ended up testing, a 32t from the Minneapolis-based Wolf Tooth Component, features a less ovalized shape and less aggressive timing for a more natural pedal stroke. It’s beautifully CNC machined out of 416 stainless steel where raw billets cost more and take longer to make than the conventional 7075 aluminum counterparts, but they are also said to be five to ten times longer lasting. Besides the material, the ring incorporates Wolf-Tooth’s own Drop-Stop narrow/wide tooth profile to prevent chain drops. It’s been running smoothly on a 1×10 drivetrain with a clutched Shimano XT rear derailleur for a few months now and the chainring feels natural and not awkward at all. While the ovality does become slightly apparent in lower cadences, it’s a forgone sensation after a couple of rides. It did seem to smooth out the torque a bit and I was able to get a bit more traction on the loose stuff. And I have yet to drop my chain.
Fanny packs are all the rage now. Though I like a good locally-made artisanal fanny pack, I miss the load-bearing aspect of a backpack. Luckily, Australia’s Henty Enduro backpack seems to have solved my dilemma. Despite its name moniker, it’s not really a backpack. It’s more like a lumbar pack sewn with a mesh backpack retention system. Henty designed the water reservoir to be placed horizontally instead of the traditional vertical orientation so not only does it keep the center of gravity low for better stability, but I can also reuse my pre-existing CamelBak reservoir.
Made with tough Cordura 500D nylon, the pack is also padded with molded foam for lumbar protection. It has military-inspired MOLLE webbing that gives me plenty of mounting points to evenly and neatly distribute my gear, plus enough pockets to keep my inner OCD satisfied.
I’ve never had a belt that stretches. I mean, don’t you think it’s counter-intuitive to have a stretchy belt? My curiosity got the best of me when I ran across the Abl B19, and I am glad I took a chance on it. The buckle is made with injection-molded carbon fiber with no moving parts and metals meaning you can breeze through airport/stadium screening without taking it off. The 38mm-wide natural elastic band has what Abl calls performance stretch – just the right amount of stretch to make it both extremely comfortable and keeping my pants from falling off at the worst possible moments. It’s so good that it has been my daily driver, save for those days where I need dress a little sharper.
The idea of riding from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, on The Coast Ride, has been on my must-do list for quite some time, but sadly my radar just seems to always go into auto-forget mode after that first slice of Thanksgiving turkey. I would like to blame tryptophan but that wouldn’t be fair to the poor turkey.
It almost happened again this year until I was chatting with Jim about whether he was going to Cyclocross Nationals in Reno. “Not going because of the Coast Ride,” he said. I casually mentioned to him that I’ve always wanted to shoot the Coast Ride and he told me I could shoot it from the inGamba car. A very enticing offer indeed considering the logistics were all taken care of, and an assistant wouldn’t forever hate me for hiring them on for the sole purpose of driving really, really slow along the California coast.
But what about cyclocross nationals in Reno? I mean RENO! It’s so close I can almost make it a day trip. I could even shoot for a day and spend some time on the slopes with the family. But a supported Coast Ride, or embed as I would call it, was pretty hard to turn down, so I agreed. Perhaps the predicted warm SoCal weather played a part in the decison as well.
(Full Disclosure: E co-founder Jim works for inGamba and in such that they provided me with a spot in the team car to shoot from, a bed to sleep in, and fed me whenever it was time to eat in exchange for a few snappies.)
After the wife and kids dropped me off in Sausalito early Saturday morning, it was time to work. Since I was neither staff, nor a riding guest, and I didn’t know anyone other than recognizing a few from the social medias, I was largely on my own. But that was perfectly fine. I was able to shoot uninterrupted. Or as they say in journalism school, I was a fly on the wall.
Support staff was already busy loading the cars and making last minute adjustments while riders were getting ready. We were off just as the first light of the day popped out of the sky. The team cars crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, reconnected with the riders, rolled past the Legion of Honor and off on our journey barreling along the coast with a few hundred other riders.
Life in a support car can be a pretty mundane affair but there was never a dull moment this time as mechanicals, flats, and tired bodies appeared as soon as we strolled past Lake Merced. We saw riders that ran out of juice in their Di2 battery, a dude that flatted on a Lightweight tubular… with no spare, broken derailleur cables (PSA: replace them every season), and compromised tubeless tire sidewalls. Highway 1, as gorgeous and picturesque as it was, mercilessly consumed both riders and equipment, figuratively, of course. Don’t get me started on the amount of middle fingers we got along the route either. I stopped counting after 5 during the opening hours.
Leaving the team hotel in Sausalito
Manuel riding in the good light.
Ralf picking up some warmers.
Relaxing behind the team car.
Somewhere between Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Riding across one of many historic bridges along Big Sur.
Mark taking a few snappies
Climbing Loma Vista.
Sweet socks, buddy.
Ted on the rollers.
The key is to stick together.
We got chased by this cute dog near Lucia... and it kept running
Special mid-ride snack
Hugs before tackling Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.
Raul and Katie descending towards the big climb.
Fort Hunter Liggett is pretty damn sweet
A couple of horses came by the RV to say hello in Lockwood.
Loading up the bags for the final day into Santa Barbara
Everyone's happy after Mark fixed his busted Di2.
Andrew having a blast.
Jim and Xico packing a guest's bike
Almost done with the Coast Ride.
Manuel chilling next to the team car.
Inasmuch as each Coast Ride participant had to go through their own version of sufferfest (we saw a guy on a singlespeed, true story), the view of the California coast and the camaraderie among riders made a huge difference turning the event from a shitty terrible idea to a fun one. Sure there were faces of people in pain, but there were also a ton of happy folks that seemed to be enjoying every bit of the ride, even on that monster 7 mile climb with 2,700 ft of climbing out of Big Sur on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. High-fives, hugs, and encouragement floated around which made the miles all the better. Definitely a unique take on them there base miles.
For the inGamba crew, though, a lot of these concerns were taken care of. Two team cars, a van and an RV staffed with pro mechanics. Cold in the morning? Here’s an inflated latex glove to stuff under your jersey for warmth. Need a wheel change? Need to shed your warmers or need to stop? The team car was there. In fact, the team car was everywhere for the three day, 400+ mile journey.
Then, there was the world-class guides of Eros Poli, Manuel Cardoso, Raul Matias, and Ted King who seemed to ride on the front for hours, take a few photos with their phones, drop back to the team car, and then go right back to the front for more.
The pro team treatment didn’t stop there though: Lunch and post-ride meals were ready to go at the RV. Recovery massages and suitcases were already awaiting inside each hotel room everyday. Bikes were also washed and checked daily.
One memorable moments was when one of the guests missed the turn for the Nacimiento climb so the team car promptly turned around to fetch him back to the RV full of semi-worried, tired, but cheerful riders. On day three, the Di2 battery on one of the guest’s personal bike battery went out and instead of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere between Morro Bay and Santa Barbara, the team cars pulled up and gave him a spare bike – measured, adjusted and installed with the guest’s own pedals, saddle and a computer mount – all done from the side of a road. See, they really mean it when they say they want you to focus on riding your bike and nothing else.
After three days of soaking up the inGamba x Coast Ride experience behind a camera from inside the team car, I most certainly would go with inGamba if I were to do the Coast Ride. Sounds like a paid statement, but no, I just want to ride and enjoy the view.