Hexlox – a great way to protect components

Life is too short to ride shitty bikes. There’s no point in having a fleet of nice machines sitting in the shed or hanging on your apartment wall if you’re going to ride a rusty old beater down to the coffee shop. But you don’t want some sticky-fingered swine making off with your vintage-road-bike-turned-commuter, either.

Protecting the frame is simple – invest in a good lock. Spend as much as you can afford to, you’ll have it for years and the peace of mind will be worth every cent. What about the peripherals, though? Those beautiful handmade wheels and the nicely broken-in Brooks saddle that is now perfectly contoured to your backside – they need protecting too. No cyclist ever wants to come back to a locked-up frame that’s been relieved of its wheels. Even the thought of it is enough to make you wince. 

The second I heard about Hexlox, I was intrigued. A magnetic hex-shaped insert blocks anyone from using a hex key on your bolts, and it can only be removed by a key that’s unique to each set. It’s such a simple idea, but one that could potentially save you a small fortune in foiled theft attempts.

How it works

The Hexlox sits inside your hex (Allen) bolts, magnetically attached to the metal. It takes seconds to set up. If your bolts are aluminium or titanium, you’ll have to buy an additional insert, but it still looks incredibly straightforward. I’ll admit to fudging the job on my seatpost. I ran out of the right sized Hexlox and needed to use a small one, but even with the poorly fitting Hexlox, I couldn’t get it out of the slot after several minutes trying with some wire and a knife. I also tried a magnet, with no success. There’s a video showing why that won’t work, here. 

Anyway, once you know the correct size of all your bolts, you just order what you need from the site and slot them into place. After that, the only thing you have to do is keep the key in a safe place, because each one is unique. There’s also a replacement code in case you need a spare.

I also installed some of their anti-theft skewers, because I was tired of always having to bring an extra lock for my front wheel. They basically just replace normal quick-release skewers with a hex-bolt skewer that can then be secured with a Hexlox. They also have conical heads and anti-spin teeth that sit into in the dropout, protecting against attacks with pliers.

Conclusion

A complete bike kit including skewers sells for €71.99, with free worldwide shipping from their HQ in Germany. Weighed up against the cost of replacing a nice set of wheels, or a good seatpost and saddle, it’s a good investment. It’s a one-time purchase that takes the worry out of leaving a nice ride locked up around town. 

Is it totally theft proof? Probably not, nothing is. I’m sure that if you had a load of tools and plenty of time, you could figure out some way to break them, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a very clever little product. I can’t imagine anyone is going to be industrious or determined enough to get past them in a real world scenario. I think it does a really good job, it’s simple but secure, and I’m going to buy some more of them. 


The Rapha Commuter: A New Winter Staple

Rapha’s new Commuter jacket has been getting a lot of use lately. My take? There’s nothing like the smug feeling of staying dry in a downpour to keep you warm while you’re riding in the winter. And the bright orange helps too.

It also comes in yellow, bright pink, and black, and all of them feature a reflective dot print on the rear for visibility. When paired with a beanie, I’m told that the orange makes me look like I’m about to audition for the next season of Deadliest Catch, but I’m ok with that. The black certainly looks cool, but the brighter colours are more functional for city riding in poor conditions. They’re a nice halfway house for those of us who want to be seen while in traffic, but who are two vain to wear one of those horrific safety bibs. And the jacket’s cut and understated detailing is stylish enough to get away with it.

Speaking of the cut, it isn’t as extreme as a proper roadie rain cape, and for anyone commuting stretched-out in the drops, it could be slightly longer in the tail to provide more protection, but it’s definitely made with riding in mind, with longer sleeves and stretchy cuffs that provide plenty of mobility and cover while you’re on the go. The sizing is generous, so it might be worth considering going down one if you don’t plan on wearing it with layers. As is, it works well with other clothing and definitely isn’t something I’d only use with the bike. The next time I go hiking, this will be coming with me. 

According to Rapha, it’s made with a “hydrophobic membrane.” It’s waterproof, basically. The seams are sealed and the zip is waterproof, running off centre for a classically Rapha look. The hood is roomy and can be stored away under a nice little reflective strap, but I’m not sure how much I’d use that given the jacket’s main function is to keep me dry when it’s lashing rain. There’s also some concealed mesh on the back of the shoulders with venting that helps keep things comfortable. And the inside of the fabric is soft to the touch, so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a bin liner. Overall, it’s about as comfortable as a fully waterproof jacket is going to be.

At $135/€120, this just about classifies as a bargain these days. For context, for the same money you could get four pairs of “aero” socks, or a third of a pair of Assos T.campionissimo shorts. There are cheaper raincoats, obviously, but not from a brand like Rapha. Everything bike-related seems to get more expensive each year, and it’s cool to see a major brand go the other way for once. Rapha deserve credit for making a reasonably-priced product that doesn’t feel like the poor relative of the one you really wanted.


Hitting The Gravel With The Pinarello Grevil

Pinarello Grevil gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

You probably know Jered Gruber for his photography. But what you might not know is that he’s a map wizard. Give him a location, tell him what you want to do, and in no time at all he’ll have created a great loop that typically combines the best of the local scenery with a selection of roads most people don’t even know exist. So I couldn’t have been happier to see my cartographer friend when he showed up just in time for my maiden ride on the new Pinarello Grevil+. But more on that anon.

About the bike

Rumours about the Grevil had been trickling out of Pinarello’s HQ in Treviso for some time, and I was excited to see it. The more enthusiastic dirt riders that I knew were all skeptical, however. The Italian brand’s last gravel offering, the Gan GRS Disk, had limited tyre clearance and was overweight, and there were concerns that the new model would continue that theme.

Happily, that isn’t the case. The new bike can take up to 42mm rubber on a 700c wheel, or 2.1″ mountain bike tyres on a 650b. It’s a lot lighter as well, to the point that it didn’t feel noticeably heavier than the road bike I’d spent the morning riding. The Grevil also does away with the DSS1.0 elastomer suspension that Pinarello used on the Gan GRS and its Dogma K8S classics machine, allowing the bigger volume tyres to smooth out the ride.

The Grevil stays true to Pinarello’s racing heritage and plenty of attention was paid to aerodynamics. That’s not going to be important to a lot of gravel riders, but my take is that you might as well incorporate aero features wherever possible. The frame borrows from the Dogma F10’s concave downtube shape, including the recessed space for the bottle cage. They’ve also included a fork flap, which reduces drag around the front disc’s calliper. It also looks like it should provide extra protection for the brakes, which can’t be a bad thing on rough roads. The frame uses a 12×100mm through axle on the front and a 12×142mm one in the back.

Pinarello Grevil gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

It’s unlikely that the Grevil is going to appeal to hardcore bike-packers because there are no bosses for pannier racks, but there are attachments for up to three bottles and with the right kind of frame bags, I’d be happy to take it on some excursions into the wilderness. To the other end of the spectrum, there’s also space for a front derailleur hanger if you want to fit a traditional 2x groupset and use the Grevil as a conventional road bike but with big fat tyres. I’ve never been a believer in the idea of a “Quiver Killer” bike, but with some slick thread tyres and the right gearing, the Grevil could be a fine road bike for most casual riders.

Pinarello Grevil gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

The first few rides

Girona is famous for road riding. Plenty of pros live there, and considering that it was around 25ºC all week in late October, it’s easy to see why. The terrain is stunning, with a nice mix between coastal and mountainous options. I knew nothing about the gravel scene though, which is why I was so happy to see Gruber, because it turned out that there was an amazing little dirt loop that started a stone’s throw from the hotel front door. And another one, that went right out the back. And another, that… well, you get the picture.

It’s hard to offer a really meaningful review of any gravel bike, in my opinion, because it’s hard to know what to compare it to. Especially when you only have a few days to ride it on unfamiliar roads. As a category, it’s still relatively new. So new, in fact, that we can’t even agree on what to call it. Adventure, allroad, roadplus and enduroad are all being used interchangeably at the moment. And while some features – big clearances and disc brakes – are universal, the current crop of gravel machines are all pleasingly different. That’s a welcome divergence in an industry that can be overly homogeneous, and I hope it continues.

It’s also true that ultimately, it’s what you do with a bike that matters. The roads I took with the Grevil during my time with it in Catalonia were amazing: Technical, varied, scenic, utterly devoid of traffic, and fun. Or put another way, everything that a gravel ride should be. So it’s not surprising that I had a great time. The most honest compliment that I can pay to Pinarello’s new bike is that I didn’t come across anything that it couldn’t handle. Or rather, there’s nowhere that another gravel bike could go that the Grevil couldn’t follow. If you really go into the wild (or get lost like we did), you’re going to end up walking some sections, but that’s just part of the experience.

Back on tarmac, the Grevil doesn’t feel like too much of a compromise either, which is another big compliment. Some adventure bikes are amazing on dirt, but feel heavy and sluggish on smooth roads, probably because they are heavy and sluggish.

The Grevil feels like the perfect trade-off. If you’re used to riding a super-light race machine, you won’t set any records on long climbs, but with a set of slick tyres and the right gearing, it’s more than capable of sticking with a reasonably paced group ride. Bigger rubber and relaxed geometry makes for a comfortable ride, but with its classically Pinarello DNA, the Grevil is still a fast bike. It’s light, nimble, and begging to be ridden hard. It just happens to be a little tougher than its Tour de France-winning cousins. To me, it’s a racer that hasn’t been house-trained. And I want one. So bad.

Pinarello Grevil Gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

Big thanks to the mechanics at inGamba Tours for setting up the bike, and for being amazing in general.


Ornot: A Low-Key Alternative

West Coast riders are likely familiar with Ornot, since they launched in San Francisco back in 2013. But to the wider world, it’s still a relative newcomer and I’ll admit that, prior to their recent European launch, I’d never heard of them.

There’s a lot to like about Ornot. For starters, there was their motto: “You could be a rolling billboard, Ornot.” Intrusive branding has always been a turn off for me, so any company that promises to lose the logos has my full support. I also like the straightforward line-up. They offer a set of classy bib shorts and a few different types of jerseys. By contrast, one of the major Italian brands currently offers 19 different variations of shorts on their website. I like that Ornot are keeping things simple, and just focusing on making the best bib they can.

The first time I pulled said bibs on, the pad felt a little thin. On the bike though, it was plenty comfortable and after a few months riding I now prefer its lower profile. The material used has a nice texture to it and feels a little bit compressive, and the chunky cuffs look cool and keep everything in place.

At €134/$180, they’re not exactly cheap, but they feel like good value. In terms of comfort and ergonomics, they’re as good as any bibs I’ve tried, but crucially, there’s an obvious attention to detail in their construction. They feel more robust than a lot of other high-end bibs in my wardrobe, and with a good warranty and a crash replacement policy in place, you’ll get your money’s worth out of them. And aside from the blue detail on the right leg cuff, they’re neutral style-wise, so they’ll easily pair with any jersey or jacket you fancy wearing.

The Work Jersey I tested feels great, too. It’s comfortable and up close there are some nice little details in the design. The set-in sleeves look a bit retro, which I liked, and the olive colour is an understated alternative to the usual blacks and reds we see so much of in cycling clothing. I’d normally say that white is the only acceptable colour for a cycling sock, but the matching olive numbers that came with the kit really made it pop.

Good stuff all round, basically, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on what they do in future.


Bearclaw Bicycle Claws Its Way Out Of The Northern Michigan Woods

Bearclaw Bicycles Michigan Framebuilder

I grew up in the Cherry Capital of the World, Traverse City, Michigan. A place where we called the tourists “fudgies”, you referred to where you lived by pointing at the little crack between your pinky and your ring finger on your hand and where my parents owned a roller skating rink called The Fun Factory. I raced my first bicycle race out behind McClain Cycles on their amazing BMX track and I bought my very first real road bike downtown at Brick Wheels. After school I used to motorpace behind my buddy Matt’s Motobecane moped out to his house on Long Lake. On the weekends we would ride our bikes out to the lighthouse on Old Mission Peninsula or I would ride past some random girls house 400 times in the hope I would run into her.

The bicycle season in “the pinky” of Michigan is not exactly long and even though, at the time, I thought it was pretty hilly Michigan is actually devoid of any real climbing. The region is more well known for the Vasa Ski Trails, the National Cherry Festival and the Sleeping Bear Dunes, then the bicycle riding. Although, the much beloved Iceman Cometh is held there every year.

All of this is to say, I was pretty surprised when I found out about Bearclaw Bicycle, an upstart bicycle company is using the place of my birth to design, build and deliver some pretty interesting whips. I reached out to the owner and all thing Bearclaw, Jason Lowetz, to find out what gives and what follows is the full rundown on how he went from would-be rockstar in Los Angeles to two-wheeled evangelist in Traverse City, Michigan.

Bearclaw Bicycles Michigan Framebuilder

You say you moved back to Michigan from LA to pursue a music career, but ended up selling and then making bicycles. Can you tell us a little bit of this story and are you still playing music?

I lived in the Hollywood/Los Angeles area from 1999-2009. There I was living the dream as a a singer in a rock and roll band, Vibralounge, with my brother and a couple of good friends. We wore pleather jackets and giant sunglasses, and had our own signature hair do’s- mine was a tri-hawk.  Even though we had ‘the look’, we were actually pretty darn strait-edge and never got into the party scene. Instead, we liked riding dirt bikes and mountain bikes- I liked the competitive aspect. I also love pushing myself to physical extremes.

My brother and I, for 4 years in a row, rode from Los Angeles to Monterey, 300 miles, non-stop on new year’s eve. I currently put on a yearly 200 mile gravel bike race called the Sancho 200 and enjoy motivating others to push themselves. It’s amazing what we humans are capable of!

While we made some interesting connections in the music industry, in the end it wasn’t to be, and we needed money to live on. Thanks to my ex-girlfriend’s dad (she’s my wife now), I sort of knew how to assemble a bike. When I applied for a job at Montrose Bike Shop, assembling a bike was the main part of my interview.  They hired me on and I started riding and racing road bikes soon after.

By 2009, I had gotten heavy into racing in Southern California. I was a Cat 1 roadie, man!  We started a bike race team called Team Bearclaw after my alter ego, the ultra famous Chet Bearclaw. We had a cat 1 road team as well as 20+ other category road and mtb racers.  I was one of the sprinters and took 1st at Manhattan Beach Grand Prix Criterium (my one major racing claim to fame). We had a 1970’s Winnebago team RV that also doubled as my brothers home. We were still living on a high horse.

In 2009, I reunited with a former flame, Kristie, who was living in Denver.  We were both ready for a change, and we decided to move back to Michigan together.

I was rather surprised and impressed with the Michigan bike scene.  I didn’t really have any expectations when I arrived, but quickly realized that there were some legit races.  I started making connections and soon started another race team in Traverse City–Einstein Racing.  We had quite a following, and it wasn’t long after that I opened up my own bike shop, Einstein Cycles.  We started out small, in the garage, without a business loan.  We borrowed money from a couple family members and maxed out our credit cards and quickly had a retail location (thanks to our garage shop getting shut down by the township!).

The gamble paid off, and three years later and we were doing a million+ sales per year. The success of the shop allowed me to dive into the world of owning and operating my own bike brand.

For 3 years now, Bearclaw Bicycle Co. has been my #1. I’m having a lot of fun with it. But yeah, music.

Music will always be one of my many passions, but it’s become something I now do in my basement for my own enjoyment.  Some day I hope to put some of it out there for the world, but for now, there is no pressure and no deadlines.

Bearclaw Bicycles Michigan Framebuilder

Traverse City seems like a great place to go to the beach or maybe, in the winter, hit the nordic ski trails, but it seems like a strange place to start a bicycle company. How did you come to the decision Northern Michigan was a good place to influence bicycle design and start a bicycle brand?

I opened my own bicycle shop, Einstein Cycles, in 2011. I quickly learned that I had to do something in the winter to generate revenue. I found some other people in the area with some interest in winter fat biking and we started making trail. We would snowshoe trails then ride them on our Salsa and Surly fat bikes. A few years later we were grooming trails by snowmobile and we were selling out of carbon Salsa Fat Bikes. I figured this was a good reason to start a new brand of bicycles.

I was always curious about this and had made some connections in the industry over the years which gave me the confidence to go for it. I figured we could design a fat bike to be more like the 29er hardtail cross-country bikes we were riding all summer. I convinced my bank to loan me the money I would need to start this new venture, then got to work. A year or so later Bearclaw Bicycle Co. introduced the Balthazar, our carbon fat bike. The design was and still is a hit for us. It combines nimble cross-country bike handling with the ability to fit massive 5” tires. Oh, and we think it looks pretty neat too. The next spring we realized that people didn’t stop riding our fat bikes even though the snow was gone. They were having too much fun floating through the sandy section of our trails and riding over obstacles they may not have otherwise ridden over. Turns out that big tires are ideal for Northern Michigan with its sandy terrain.

We took this love for big tires to the gravel bike, too. After spending a lot of time riding the gravel roads of Northern Michigan, I knew that the then current 35c max tire wide gravel bikes were not cutting it. We needed 700 x 50 or bigger. We were considering carbon for this new bike, but started to think about the abuse we wanted to put the bike through and ultimately landed on Titanium. We are now very much in love with Titanium. But yeah, to answer your question, Northern Michigan just so happens to be the perfect region for us. Tons of singletrack, 2-track, gravel roads, and paved roads to ride. Wildly different terrain and weather with each season. I believe the average temp was 6 degrees in February a few years ago. We also get a ton of lake-effect snow. Summers are warm and the soil is very sandy. The trails get pretty loose by mid-summer. Big tires rule this region.

Bearclaw Bicycles Michigan Framebuilder

I believe you got your start working in bicycle shops. How did this influence your approach to Bearclaw Bicycles?

That’s how BBCo. began and that’s what makes it so special. Our ability to have this direct retail connection with our BBCo. brand customers is very important. I really think people are loving it. These days it’s pretty much unheard of to have the kind of connection our customers have with us. Our contact number is my cell phone.

Bearclaw started it’s existence with the Balthazar, a fat tire bicycle. It seems, based on what we saw at Interbike last year, that the fat tire bike might have seen its moment in the sun come and go. Where do you see fat tire bicycle fitting in going forward?

Oh man, I don’t see fat bikes going away. They are too much fun to ride and can handle any terrain. I think you will start to see more and more of the snowbelt regions figuring out this winter fatbike trail grooming too. Our network of groomed Fat Bike winter trails here in Traverse City has grown to well over 20 miles. Marquette has a great winter bike scene too.

Bearclaw is building bicycle which might actually reach the status of “one-quiver” rigs. Is this the goal? To build a bicycle which can go anywhere and do anything, with just a quick swap of wheels?

Our bikes are all designed to fit an array of different wheel sizes. This makes them much more useful year round or for different events/terrain. Our Thunderhawk can be fitted with skinny road tires and win the local road race or you can toss 27.5×2.4 tires on and head deeep into nature. We are seeing more and more people go for the wider tires on our Thunderhawk. More and more people that love road cycling just want to have the ability to be far, far away from cars. If I only had one bike it would be a Thunderhawk. I could ride it across the country on paved or gravel roads, race it in a criterium, or shred singltrack for days on it. One bike. I would however have trouble in the winter on the Fat Bike trails. So I guess I need two bikes. Then of course I would also want a Ti fat bike for loading down and bike packing across the UP. So three bikes. There is a slight chance I may also need a fourth bike which is coming soon from a BBCo. near you, it’s specialty will be shred packing in the Colorado Rockies. It’s a slacked trail bike with room for bags, bottle, racks, etc. My good buddy, Buck Macho of Durango, is helping me design it.

If you were building a specifically for an event like Grinduro, where do you think you would go. You have an uphill timed section, a downhill timed section, a single track timed section and a flat road timed section? What bicycle makes the most sense: components, gearing, tires, etc…

Sounds like the perfect job for Thunderhawk with wide range 10-46 gearing in the back and a 40-42 up front! I would run 27.5×2.25 Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires for their singletrack prowess and light weight. They roll pretty well on the pavement too.


Grinduro: What A Difference A Year Makes

Grinduro 2018

Just a year ago on these actual pages I was lamenting my desire to build the perfect bike for Grinduro and while standing at the lunch stop in Taylorsville, California at this years Grinduro it is clear I was not the only one.

Grinduro 2018 Fabric saddles

The biggest change at this gravel/adventure/road/everything ride/race/ramble in the Gold Country north of the San Francisco Bay Area, actually north of Chico, was the number of bicycles built specifically for conditions experienced in these them-there hills.

There were “gravel” bicycles from the big players, including Trek, Cannondale, Felt, Open, Specialized and Giant. There were custom builders also weighing in on the genre, including bicycle from Caletti, Rock Lobster, SyCip, Speedvagen, Blue Collar Bicycle and many more.

The wheelbases are long, the tires are big, and I mean really big, brakes, for the most part, are disk and rear cogs are massive.

Grinduro 2018 Blue Collar Bikes

Last year it was surprising to see someone aboard a properly and purposely built gravel bike, but this year it was more odd to find someone riding a full-suspension mountain bike or a cyclocross bike. They were there, but their herd is getting much thinner and thinner.

Grinduro 2018

And this is where the story really begins.

The procurement of a proper whip.

Since my day job includes riding Pinarellos, it only seemed wise to start there. And I was lucky enough to land a “demo” Pinarello GAN GRS Disk from the lovely crew at Pinarello USA.

Grinduro 2018 Pinarello GAN GRS Disk

After a couple of shakeout rides, I decided I was going to need to swap a couple of items in order to feel more confident in my second attempt at this ridiculous, yet rewarding, shindig.

So I ordered myself the biggest cassette Shimano will let you pair with their Ultegra 2x setup, an 11×34. This would enable me to get a 34-34 as my easiest gear. A crucial situation.

I also pulled my workhorse Zipp 302s from my F10 Disk and mounted up a new pair of Donnelly X’Plor MSO 36mm tires to the beast.

Grinduro 2018 Ted King

I then set about testing the premise this bicycle was going to make my day in the mountains as pleasant as humanly possible.

This Pinarello rips on the descents, is admirably fast and functional on the road and handled the singletrack with aplomb.

If I had my druthers, I would probably have put on even bigger rubber and more gears, but all things considered, I was superstoked.

Grinduro 2018

Fast forward to the night before Grinduro and I’m sitting in my room at the straight-from-an-80s-movie Ranchito Motel in lovely Quincy, California, sipping a beer, watching Ted stuff his jersey pockets with maple syrup and brushing my teeth at an actual sink.

If you remember correctly, my whippy fast and delightful unprepared companion from last year’s Grinduro, Ted King, and I slept in a tent at the fairgrounds and thoroughly froze our asses off. So in a moment of pure wonder, we decided to get a couple of hotel rooms, with hot running water and a lock on the door. And other than marrying my wife and moving to California, this will stand as one of the greatest decision I have ever made.

In the great battle of tent vs. motel, motel wins hands down. At least in regards to fairground camping.

Grinduro 2018

Anyway, I am pulling together my kit and essentials for the next day, while one of my riding companions in the room next door is dialing in his very own Pinarello gravel bike. He was complaining of a noise in the seatpost, so he was adding a touch of lube and double checking the seat binder bolt.

Grinduro 2018

And then I hear it.

The sound.

That gut-wrenching sound.

The sound of someone’s day going horribly wrong.

The sound of a broken seatpost bolt reverberating through the innards of a carbon fiber frame.

The sound of Grinduro heartbreak.

Grinduro 2018

Ok, so here’s the thing. I’m not really a nice guy.

But I was born in the midwest and with that comes certain obligations.

And so when push-came-to-shove, I gave up my seatpost bolt so my traveling companion, dare I say, my friend, could ride this event for the very first time.

So having cannibalized my beautiful steed, and in the process ending my chances of glory, off to bed I went.

Grinduro 2018

So instead of kitting up the next morning, I pull on some jeans and spend the next day hopscotching all over the course, cleaning rider’s filthy sunglasses, shouting support and eavesdropping on riders.

There were distinctly three categories of riders on the road.

First, those looking for glory.

Second, those claiming they were just here to enjoy themselves.

Finally, those who were just hoping to survive. With the course being 60 plus miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, no matter your fitness it is a legitimately difficult day in the saddle.

Grinduro 2018 Trek

As luck (and hard work) would have it my roommate, the rider formerly known as the King of Gravel, Ted King, took first place overall.

This changed our post ride party into a fest and made it a whole lot more fun: the band sounded sweeter, the beer tasted better and the pork rinds were all the more delicious.

Grinduro 2018

The one thing I think we can all count is there will be a Grinduro next, there will be more and more race specific gear and race tactics will play a bigger and bigger part in the outcome of the podium.

Grinduro 2018

And just when I think I have my “which whip?” issues all ironed out, it turns out Ted King, won Grinduro aboard Cannondale’s new mountain bike, The F-Si. I mean come on, what the what? And we’re pretty sure women’s winner, Lindsay Dwyer, was aboard her Trek mountain bike. Let the search and handwringing continue.

Grinduro 2018 winners

Plato Would Have Loved The Sage PDXCX

Cross season is here and while many undoubtedly have all their rig(s) ready to go, I don’t. I have an unhealthy tendency to procrastinate till the very last minute, so if you’re like me, or if you’re in the market for a good durable cross bike, may I introduce you to a bike that I lovingly test rode for months. The impeding cross season reminded me how much I love and miss this Sage PDXCX.

The story started late winter of 2017 when the bike showed up at my house a few days before Christmas. Cross season was pretty much over by then, but I figured I can do a combination of ‘cross and gravel riding since gravel is the rage these days. Plus, I was curious as to how titanium, the darling material of choice before it was totally blindsided by the emergence of carbon, would change the ride, if any.

So Sage treated the build as one would expect from a small customer builder: customization. Based out of Beaverton, Oregon, owner and designer Dave Rosen was very hands on in terms of getting the right build.

Sage Titanium owner/designer Dave Rosen
Owner/Designer Dave Rosen racing in the Wheelers and Dealers category at RenoCross

I opted for a 52cm frame and Dave built my test bike with a 2x Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical grouppo, TRP HY/RD cable-actuated hydraualic disc brakes, an ENVE Cross disc fork, Hed Ardennes Plus LT disc hoops with versatile Donnelly PDX 700x33C tires, a 3T cockpit with 2.5mm Lizard Skins DSP bartape, plus a Selle Italia SLR saddle. The PDXCX is available as frame only for $2,900. Our 18.9lb test bike was $6,625.

e_sage050918SL032

Sage outfitted the build with Shimano Ultegra R8000 crankset with 46/36 chainrings for the purpose of cross and gravel riding.

e_sage050918SL044

142x12 thru-axle in the rear to keep the rear end together

e_sage050918SL026

Grippy Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm Bartape was the right choice between the less padded 1.8mm and the really cushy 3.0mm version.

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The Selle Italia SLR Saddle was surprisingly comfortable

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Old-school reversing pulley for the front derailleur.

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Clean welds and stealth fender mounts

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ENVE Cross fork with plenty of mud clearance.

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You can say that’s an awful lot of money to be spend on a bike when you can get something lighter for less. But I digress. I love the PDXCX. Designed by Rosen and manufactured by titanium specialist Lynksey in Tennessee, the 3V/2.5Al titanium alloy frame features a double-butted ovalized toptube, a bi-ovalized downtube (also double butted), an oversized 44mm headtube, with a nod to both the old school and the new school thoughts of what a cyclocross geometry should be: A modern short chainstay coupled with a longer front end mated to a higher bottom bracket similar to traditional euro cross bikes.

A giant 44mm headtube

t’s further dotted with little details such as a reversing pulley for the front derailleur, a patented interchangeable cable routing system to keep all the cables tidy whether you are running either mechanical or electrical groups, a 1X or a 2X. The PDXCX also comes with a traditional bottom bracket, a 142×12 rear dropout, and mounts for fenders. It’s clear Rosen spent a lot of time tinkering it through and through.

Keeping it tidy with the system-specific interchangeable cable routing system

The PDXCX is a very easy bike to work on – something a privateer would appreciate, like its brushed finish with removable decals where replacement decals in ten different colorways are readily available. Rosen would also be happy to refinish your frame to make it looking brand-new for a mere $50. Again, they’re the small details that make this bike enticing for those who plan to keep their bikes for a while.

Rosen envisioned a nimble race machine to slice through technical courses and often muddy tracks of the Pacific Northwest, and the bike delivered. The PDXCX is aggressive and stiff like a well-tuned race car where its sole mission is to get you to places – fast. I found the PDXCX to be a comfortable race bike… but it’s still a race bike, and prospective buyers should understand that any bike won’t be automatically magical just because it’s made out of titanium. You can’t compare a suspension of a Toyota Camry to the suspension on a Porsche 911. The PDXCX offers a firm ride, and I like that. There are cushier, more laidback cross bikes out there, but I like the PDXCX for its playfulness and razor-sharp handling in tight courses. I’d give Sage’s gravel frame, the Barlow, a look if I was to do more gravel riding than ‘cross whereas the PDXCX is great for CX racers who like to do some occasional mixed terrain rides.

I encountered a few issues with our test bike. First, the 3T Zero25 seatpost is beautiful and offers both zero and 25-degrees of offset in a flip of the clamps, but our seatpost slipped twice during our testing despite being properly torqued. It finally stayed in its place after we torqued it for the third time. Second, while the Ultegra R8000 grouppo worked flawlessly with the dual chainring being a welcoming sight on longer mixed terrain rides, I never warmed up to the TRP HY/RD cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes. Sure, they modulate well and will stop, but they lack the power of the hydraulic offerings from Shimano or SRAM.

The TRP HY/RD cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes got a nice brake feel but lacks power compared to hydraulic brakes from the likes of Shimano and SRAM.

Tire clearance is also a point worth noting. Sage noted the PDXCX will clear 42c tires, but our 33mm Donnelly PDX tires measured out to be around 36.7mm on our caliper on the 25mm-wide HED rim, with about 4mm of clearance left on either side of the chainstay… A 42mm tire is going to be a very tight squeeze. Other than these little things, the PDXCX was as good of a race bike that I could ask for.

So yes, if I am planning to keep a highly capable and spirited cross bike for a long while, I’d give the Sage PDXCX a serious look.

www.sagetitanium.com


Pirelli Brings The Speed With The Zero TT

Pirelli P Zero Velo TT Tire

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.

Pirelli P Zero Velo TT Tire

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.


The Eagle Has Landed

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.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

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.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

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?

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

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.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

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.

www.goodyearbike.com


Focus Paralane: The Two-Wheeled Station Wagon

Focus Paralane eTap

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.

Focus Paralane eTap

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.

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Flatten chainstays to absorb vertical bumps.

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Sculpted carbon forks for ride comfort.

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Room for up to 35c tires.

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Focus' own Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to enable faster wheel change.

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A quarter turn is all that's needed to secure the wheels

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The stock Prologo Scratch saddle was comfortable but also heavy

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Zipp Course 30 wheels with 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4 season rubbers

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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.

Focus Paralane eTap

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.

Focus Paralane

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.

Focus Paralance eTap
It’s pretty cramped back there.

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.

Focus Paralane eTap

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.

Focus Paralane eTap

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.

www.focus-bikes.com