Yes, it’s entirely possible to make a bicycle frame out of whisky casks.
I can count a handful of collaborations between bike manufacturers their automative counterparts (Colnago/Ferrari, Specialized/McLaren, Pinarello/Jaguar…)
But this is the first time I have ever heard of a bike made of whisky glass. I mean, I saw the email subject line right after I made it to Apple Park for the iPhone 8/X launch event and I kept wondering what’s up with this wooden Renovo whisky bike.
Named the Glenmorangie Original after Renovo’s partnership with Scotland’s Glenmorangie (and one of their popular Scotches, the Glenmorangie 10 Year Old – The Original.) Each limited edition frame uses roughly 15 staves from twice-filled American white oak casks which are shipped to Portland, Oregon where they are then shaped and put together into a hollow trapezoidal-shaped top and downtube that traces the curvy shape of the staves while a curvy thin seat mimics the shape of a longbow to soak up all the unpleasant bumps.
Just as wood has its own characteristics from growth and well, being aged in some fine Highland scotch, each frame will be one-of-a-kind so you can be certain that no one in your weekend riding group will share the same frame even if he/she decides to order one.
Renovo bills this as an all-around adventure machine so the disc only frame will have plenty of clearance to fit up to 700x40mm tires. A tapered headtube, PF30 bottom bracket and thru-axles are also employed to further boost the frame’s stiffness. Front and rear fender mounts come standard and is rear-rack compatible with a rackmount seat collar.
The Glenmorangie Original launch edition built with Shimano Ultegra R8000 and hydraulic brakes will be available for a cool $6,950 while the Prestige edition with Dura-Ace 9170 Di2 will be $11,450. It’s not exactly cheap and the bike won’t smell like whisky, but it’s definitely something different from your typical carbon fiber titanium steed and is still capable to go just as fast.
The year was 1991. Richard Bryne thought he had a really good pedal design, so he took it to various companies in hopes that someone would bring it to market.
22 companies turned him down. Not to be dissuaded, Bryne, a self-professed incessant tinkerer, decided to build the pedals himself.
Moving the locking mechanism onto the cleat, miniaturized, dual-side entry, and an unrestricted free float that was unheard at this point. It was a radical design.
The Speedplay X pedal and its now iconic lollipop-shape was born. It would be interesting to hear what those 22 companies that turned down Bryne feel about the idea now.
The first production run was only about a 100 pairs of pedals. A pretty modest start. Today, the San Diego-based company, offers 10 different pedals (not counting axle materials and color ways), catering to the needs of the platform-loving gravity crowd as well as the WorldTour racers winning stages in the Tour De France.
Speedplay has come a long, but Richard continues to be the guy behind all of the R&D while his wife, Sharon, a former clerk for the Florida Supreme Court, handles the daily operations as the president of the company.
Here’s Richard answering our question in his own words.
So what do you really do for work?
Well, let’s give credit where credit’s due here. Sharon runs Speedplay. She is the brains behind the organization and the hiring, the H and the R. She handles almost all of the business activities of the company which leaves me free to either do nothing or be really creative.. I choose to consider it being creative. Sometimes it looks like I’m doing nothing. But we’ve made it work with a left-brain, right-brain type of arrangement where she’s really good at some things and I’m maybe really good at a really narrow band of something. Somehow we’ve made it work.
You mentioned you made the first Turbo Trainer prior to creating speedplay… How was that progression from turbo trainer to pedals?
Yes. The other thing that I did was the very first aerobar back in 1984 so I predated anything anybody else did. I tried to promote the idea or sell the idea and I just couldn’t find anybody that was interested in it at the time. I think a lot of the product, or the success of products is timing. You have to be on target when you introduce things. Sometimes timing is not right. The other thing that I did years ago pre-Speedplay was promoting these bikes that had a geometry that put the rider in a position for better aerodynamics and for time trialing.
It was called Scepter Bicycle Company. Bill Holland, who runs Holland Cycles, and I started that in I believe 19. Gosh, I’d have to go back but I think it was 1985.
We were trying to push the idea of it being more bimechanically and aerodynamically efficient back then and I’m telling you, we just could not convince people that there was an advantage to it and now if you look at time trial bikes, every single company produces the geometry position that we were pushing in 1985. It was until the triathlon world came along and when time trialing became a really valuable part of stage racing. America got more interested in international racing rather than in criteriums and one day road races. It was never going to find a home in this country.
How do you keep your ideas fresh?
Well, I think I got lucky because in the early days, I was a bike racer just like everybody else was a bike racer. But I got influenced by this aerodynamic movement that happened back when I started racing human powered vehicles around 1979. The focus there was purely aerodynamics, so people were building machines trying to set the world record on how fast a human could go.
I was involved in this community of engineers that were trying to make machines that were more efficient than the bicycle. The bicycle had kind of hit the limit of how fast you could go on it. And people were trying to see if you could go further if you broke the rules of what the UCI was saying was legal.
There were no rules. It was just who can propel a wheeled vehicle the fastest for 200 meters with a runout.
I was just like everybody else, time trialing and racing and everything. Then all of a sudden, I got in this machine that allowed me to go 25 miles an hour faster than I could go on my bicycle. I realized that aerodynamic barrier is huge… You don’t really notice it until you get into something that doesn’t have the same resistance and with the same motor. I was able to go 25 miles an hour faster than I could on my bike and I realized this aerodynamic thing is for real.
And I think maybe I was introduced to that world before a lot of other people were. So, as a bike racer, I started thinking how can I take some of the advantage that I was learning about aerodynamics in this racing world that I’m in part-time and transfer that to my regular racing bike.
You must have an engineering background then.
No, I’ve got no background in engineering whatsoever. I was simply just a tinkerer, and a bike racer looking for an edge. I think everybody’s always looking for an edge but I was really seeing if there was any way that I could do something… I like to think of myself as lazy, I don’t want to do anymore work than I have to get to the finish line.
That’s pretty unique.
I like to think I have the best job in the world because I can dream of things and I now have the capability to make the ideas that I have into a product. The way I look at products is that I use myself as sort of the test case. If I can make something that works better for me, then I have an opportunity to share it with others. And if it really makes a difference for me, I’m hoping that it will help other people make riding more enjoyable.
The double-sided pedal was a big example of that. I thought, you know, clipless pedals are already here so is there an opportunity to make them better where beginners don’t have to fumble to get them in at traffic lights?
Are you an uphill kinda guy or downhill kinda guy?
Downhill kinda guy.
Describe your product in four words:
High quality, high performance.
Your idea of a perfect holiday:
78 degrees, dry, at the beach. I love the water and I’m drawn to the water wherever I go.
One thing people don’t know about you… besides the reverse trackstand:
I was born outside the U.S. My mother’s Irish, my father’s American, I was born in Caracas, Venezuela.
If you were an animal in the wild, what would you be?
A badger. I don’t take any shit off anybody. They do their own thing.
How many golf balls can one fit in a school bus?
74 million. What kind of school bus are you talking about… A Blue Bird 73, a Top Flight or Nike? Are we putting any in the gas tank?
Where do you envision pedals to be like ten years from now?
I used to be a morning person, I’m more of a day person now.
Where do you get your design inspirations from?
The industrial revolution.
With bicycle parts, the collection that I have basically goes from the early days when the bicycle was invented to about the 1970s when it became a global commodity. There were incremental changes but I don’t think there’s been a whole lot since the 70’s that’s been a huge change.
But during the golden years of cycling, when France and Italy and even in the U.S., there were some really creatives that a lot of people don’t even know about but they were inspirational. Pino Moroni the Italian; Valentino Campagnolo, the guy behind Simplex derailleurs; there were guys that were making really novel, interesting stuff. Rene Heres the Frenchmen.
I remember when I first started seeing these really high quality bicycle parts and they were really inspirational to me and I thought, you know, I’d love to be in the business of making that thing that when you play with ’em you can see and feel the quality in them.
Those meant a lot to me.
Now, I look back at the industrial revolution, whether it was in Europe or in the United States, the products that people made had their passion and love. It’s sort of like they’re artistically made and they’re beautifully built. I’m inspired by that even today and I still try to buy those designs of people that made beautiful things.
Where do you find them?
Flea markets, antique stores, strange places. People don’t make this kind of stuff like they used to where it’s meant to last for four or five years and then be thrown out. I love to see that here… built to last.
We’re back from the annual PressCamp in Park City, Utah where we lived and breathed nothing but bikes at 7,000+ feet of altitude for a week. It was fun and frankly it’s been a lot digesting all the materials. While more stories will be rolling out shortly, here are 14 items (in no particular order) we saw there that we’re pretty stoked about.
Aero and gravel bikes have been all the rage lately and while many pass on endurance bikes due to the preconceived notion of them being ‘slow,’ the Ridley Fenix SLX disc is anything but that. While the geometry remained identical to the ones Lotto-Soudal used to race in the classics, the 2018 model is 300 grams lighter, down to sub-850 grams in medium and now disc compatible, making it an ideal all-around machine. The disc-specific design utilizes Ridley’s own 60-50-40 ton high modulus unidirectional carbon and complete bikes will be available with Shimano Ultegra Di2, Ultegra mechanical, or the new Campagnolo Potenza 11 hydraulic disc grouppo.
Built around reliability, safety, modulation and better late than never, Campy is alas entering the hydraulic disc brake market. Designed in collaboration with Germany’s Magura but made by Campy in Europe, the disc system is full of sweet little design details: Its flat-mount and rotor-size specific caliper houses two 22mm phenolic resin pistons to combat heat transfer (Campy does not recommend adapter use for safety reasons); its organic brake pads are chamfered with a built-in wear indicator and are separated magnetically (versus metal springs); its centerlock rotors have rounded edges.
On the interface side, while the Ergopower shifter extends 11mm further and the shifter knob is 8mm taller to accommodate the brake’s master cylinders, the contact surface has largely remained the same as the previous generation. With all those design elements on such small real estate, Campy was able to increase the range of adjustments available to fine tune a rider’s preference: the new Adjustable Modulation System to tune the brake feel, adjustable brake lever reach, and adjustable reach on the upshift lever.
The disc system, dubbed the H11, will be available to flagship groups such as Super Record and Record (mechanical and EPS). Mechanical Chorus will be available with disc as well. For a lower-price point, Campy’s Potenza 11 group will share the same rotor and caliper, but with alloy shift levers and a PowerShift drivetrain (instead of Ultra-Shift found on higher end group sets).
The Mach 4 was Pivot’s first model in 2007. Now in its 5th iteration, the bike is as capable and is fast. Designed to be World Cup cross country worthy and trail capable, the Mach 4 seems perfect for those who like a fast ride and eschew bikes with longer travels. The DW-link rear suspension with 115mm travel on a custom tuned FOX Factory DPS shock is now mated to a new rear triangle to accommodate boost 148 spacing while improving stiffness and tire clearance up to 2.6″. Pivot offers both builds oriented for both XC and trail build that goes as light as 22lbs complete and 5 sizes to fit riders from 4’10” to 6’3”. What’s neat about Pivot’s offering is that unlike other companies who use same frame designs but heavier carbon layups, the Mach 4 uses the same frame and shock across the board from its $4,599 race XT build to the top of the line $9,499 Team XTR Di2 build so you can always up your parts game later knowing your frame is as good as it gets.
Started as a quest to remedy chafed and cracked cow udders in Vermont in 1900, Bag Balm sounded just so unrelated to bikes. But perhaps it’s a best kept secret from the ’96 US Olympic track team, as told by team member and world record holder, Sky Christopherson, where the team turned to Bag Balm as their go to chamois cream. They were only able to purchase it from a nearby livestock supply store. Bag Balm is as long-lasting as it is simple. Its formula contains only 4 ingredients: petrolatum, lanolin, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate and paraffin wax. But it’s versatile as I doubt any famers would put anything unproven on their prized cows, or any of us who needs an effective moisturizer to fit our variety of needs from using it as chamois to lip balm to anything in between. We gave it a try while combating the dryness and altitude in Park City and it seemed to work exceptionally well. Bag Balm is available at most drug stores such as CVS, Target and Walgreens so you know where to find it next time when you need some chamois cream and all-around moisturizer.
Originally started in 2007 as an offshoot of Britian’s renowned engineering firm BF1systems, Factor Bikes is no stranger to the limelight thanks to its forward thinking designs over the years: From the £25k Factor ONE-77 hyperbike made in collaboration with Aston Martin (yes, the car company) to the Twin Vane split down tube on the Vis Vires in 2013, Factor has been making, albeit limited stuff for the chosen few. That all changed in 2015 when industry veteran Rob Gitelis and former green jersey winner Baden Cooke purchased Factor from BF1 and went on to sponsor a WorldTour team before a bike was sold to the public.
But the wait is over and the O2 disc, a disc version of the same O2 that is being raced by AG2R La Mondiale (look for it in this year’s Tour De France). The disc version adds about 20 grams to the fork and about 40 grams to the frame, bringing the frame to about 800 grams. The frameset does not use any alloy inserts and will be available as a complete bike, chassis (frame, fork, headset, bottom bracket, bar, stem and seatpost), as well as rolling chassis (chassis plus wheels) with components from in house brand Black Inc. which is said to work as a system together in terms of optimal balance in performance and comfort. Extra Credit: Every Factor comes standard with a CeramicSpeed bottom bracket. Here is our first ride impression.
Alloy wheels are not dead and Boyd’s Altamont Lite is a good example of what one could get from a high-end hand built set of alloy wheels. At $900/set and around 1,450 grams, the 30mm tall welded rim with 19.86mm internal width and tubeless compatible rim, it has all the bells and whistles that one would find on wheels costing much more. Boyd didn’t stop there, though. The Altamont Lite now comes with a durable ceramic coating on the brake track to improve all-weather braking performance. Since all of Boyd’s hoops are hand-built at their family-owned shop in Greenville, South Carolina, you have options regarding spoke counts as well as an upgrade to White Industries hubs. Also new for 2017 is Boyd’s Ready2Ride program where Boyd installs the wheels with axles, tires, cassette and rotors in advance (for a fee) so it will be ready to ride straight out of the box. A small but thoughtful detail perfect for those with a busy schedule.
We love high-performance machines but we didn’t forget about all you parents with kids. This year Thule had a mix of on-bike bike seats and convertible trailers for the little ones. We think the Yepp Nexxt Mini is pretty neat with its quick attach bracket, a slick five-point magnetic harness system on a shock-absorbing seat, plus an integrated handlebar and adjustable foot rests designed for nine month olds to three year olds plus a max 33-lb capacity on a lightweight 6.6-lb chassis. Because admit it, weight does matter.
Gerard Vroomen is no stranger when it comes to designing something different. From his Cervelo days telling everyone about the benefit of 25c tires and the idea of a compact crankset that has now been well-adopted, Gerard does his own thing. Though eagle-eyed readers might see a facade reminiscent of Gerard’s past projects, the Strada is different.
It’s drawn specifically around wider tires, disc brakes and without the front derailleur in mind. That’s right, a 1×12 drivetrain 3T believes so strongly the bike will be released with its own dedicated cassettes featuring what they could just call the golden ratio of cassettes that has the smooth 1-tooth transition on the first 5 gears, plus a massive 350% range.
Speaking of massive, the tubes are in their own league. Whereas common aero tubing assumes airflow to stay flat as the bike travels into the wind, 3T noticed the airflow actually behaves more like an arc so the tubes were designed accordingly. Its new Fundi fork continues to minimize the frontal area to the wind while being able to accommodate 25-30c tires.
Perhaps the biggest bang for the buck at PressCamp this year had to be the NeilPryde Nazaré SL. Named after the legendary Portuguese wave, the Nazaré SL is the company’s aero offering. You’re probably thinking great, it’s (yet) another aero road bike. NeilPryde may be relatively new to the bike biz, but for those who are unfamiliar with them, NeilPryde has been playing with aerodynamics and composite engineering for about 40 years in water sports, notably windsurfing and sailing.
While other companies’ top aero offering could easy cost upwards of $10k, the top Nazaré SL in Dura-Ace 9100 mechanical transmission with Fulcrum Quattro Carbon hoops for $6,200, followed by a second model with Ultegra 8000 at an equally competitive $3,600. At 960 grams for a large frame, it ain’t no slouch either. Both models include their semi-integrated Aeroblade bar/stem cockpit to slice through the wind.
For those with tighter budgets, NeilPryde will also be offering the Nazaré, which shares the same design cues but is built with slightly heavier fibers. Nazare with Ultegra 8000 will be $2,900 and there will even be a 105-spec’d version, minus the Aeroblade cockpit, for $2,100.
This one got me with its sparkly purple paint. At 1,800 grams for a frame, the Nemo is not going to win any weight weenie contests anytime soon, but this frame is much more than just a pretty face. Under the hood (ok, paint) the Nemo utilizes oversized triple-butted Columbus Spirit niobium steel tubes which are then TIG-welded in Italy before being painted with your choice of five colors. The Nemo is available in six standard sizes from XS (48cm) to XXL (61cm), but Cinelli will make one made to measure if you like this classy-looking machine. Who says weight is everything.
Flexible body armor has been making its way into the body protection scene the last few years and I thank companies for making them so good yet hardly resembling those bulky hard rebadged ones from motocross that were once the only choice. Among them is G-Form. New this year is the Elite line of knee and elbow guards. The Elite continues the usage of G-Form’s own Reactive Protective Technology (RPT) layer to instantly absorb impact while staying flexible. Compared to the previous Pro-X line, the elite has thicker padding, more coverage and updated lycra sleeves that are not only longer in length, but also with a more breathable back panel plus silicone grippers top and bottom. Available now for $99.99. We are putting ours to the test for now so stay tuned for a more in depth look.
Thinking about buying a new crankset for your current mtb but worried about future compatibility? Enter the FSA SL-K BB392EVO modular crankset. For starters, it has the standard option of running direct mount 1x and 2x chainrings while the BB392 axle means you can fit the crank into a variety of frames with different bottom bracket standards (using appropriate bottom brackets obviously). But it doesn’t stop there. The modular crankset also makes nice between the traditional and the newer, wider Boost spacing with its built-in adjustment system (read: a spacer). They’re available in-stores now.
It’s by far the most expensive stem ($650) I’ve ever crossed paths with – so much so one can buy a new iPhone 7. But if money was no object, I’d get my hands on one of these gems ASAP. At 68 grams (100mm), it’s likely to be one of the lightest stems in the market by the THM Carbones of Germany. The Tibia is said to have the world’s best stiffness to weight ratio with its full carbon construction including the faceplate, and titanium fasteners (in torx versus the more traditional hex). What’s special about the Tibia’s design is that the faceplate mounting bolts are reversely mounted in such that the threaded rods extend from the stem and are secured by four t15 torx bolts. THM claims their particular design makes for a stiffer platform. The steer clamp is also mounted on two rotatable shafts to lessen stress. Available now.
Also prohibitively expensive at $4,000 a set but equally fascinating is the Zipp 454 NSW (Nest Speed Weaponry) disc. The rim uses the Zipp’s new variable depth HyperFoil Sawtooth profile that gives the rim its distinctive zig-zag shape as it varies from 53mm to 58mm and is said to be inspired by the tubercles of a humpback whale’s pectoral fin. It’s the fastest and also the most stable wheelset, a point Zipp stresses in terms of aero balance when riding in the wind in the 30 years since Zipp got into the aero wheel business. The 454 also employs Zipp’s own Cognition hubset with Axial Clutch technology that uses magnets instead of the standard pawl design to reduce drag. Enough said about these gems. Just think of the 454 as the AMG of Zipp wheels.
Racing in her fifth year as a professional and in her fourth season for UCI Women’s World Tour team Lotto Soudal Ladies, Isabelle Beckers had a comparatively late, yet speedy foray into professional bike racing due to injuries from competitive track and field and many friends telling her, “Just do the same.” The former Belgium 400 meter track star and physical education teacher got her first start in triathlons because “I could ride my bike, I could still do some running, and I could do some swimming,” she explained.
After two years of racing triathlons and working full-time as a pharmaceutical sales rep, she eventually found her true calling.
“I discovered that I was best in cycling. I was like, ‘Okay. I’m 29 now. It’s now or never.’ So I decided to go 100% for cycling.”
Today, aside from her day job racing and pulling domestique duties for her teammates, the multi-talented Beckers works as a curator for La Ridley, a women’s cycling community founded by Ridley where one can read up on a wide variety of topics ranging from everyday questions such as how to fix a flat tire, to stories inside the pro peloton.
How long have you been riding for Lotto-Soudal? How long have you been racing?
I’ve been racing for five years and this is my fourth season with Lotto-Soudal.
Your most memorable race:
Gent-Wevelgem two years ago. It wasn’t really rainy, but there was so much wind that we felt it in our arms because we were leaning into the wind. It was such a hard race because we were fighting the wind constantly, and you would see girls getting dropped the whole time and then just get off their bikes, so we were like “Lotto-Soudal, okay, that’s another one. And then another one, and then another.”
We were like the last ones.
That was such a cool experience also because I had my teammate with me. We were the last ones in the race because they (the commissaires) were taking everybody out. Everybody got dropped. There were riders all over the place and she was the one telling me, “Isabelle, keep eating. Keep drinking. We can do it. We can do it.” And I was like, “Okay Anouk (Rijff), that’s great.” After that she was the one being very hungry and couldn’t do it anymore.
We didn’t drop (each other). We did a time trial until the finish. (Only 65 riders out of a field of 169 finished the race- Ed.)
Biggest challenge as a professional cyclist:
The biggest challenge would be getting selected for races like the big classics… And really finish them and do a real good job.
Uphill or downhill?
Your speciality and main role at Lotto-Soudal:
I try to specialize in Time Trials. I don’t have enough explosive power to be a sprinter. But I can ride really hard for a longer time. I am 183cm tall which makes me too heavy to be a good climber even when I’m very skinny. But I absolutely love climbing certainly the longer climbs where I can ride tempo and be the ‘busdriver.’
My job at the team is mostly to be a helper/domestique. And if I get the chance to be in an early break, I can grab it.
What’s on your playlist when you’re warming up for a time trial?
Dance music, like Tomorrow Land kind of music.
Favorite place to ride in Europe?
I have never done it but I would love to do the Stelvio.
Any recommendation if I was to visit Belgium tomorrow:
Oudenaarde. Because that is really the center of cycling. That is the center of Tour Flanders. Right there.
Do you see any difference in the cycling culture between the US and its European counterpart?
The difference I could experience so far is indeed that in the US, people are very serious about their cycling. Training with coaches, schedules, powermeters, newest tech. All the racing on the road and even on the track. I was impressed! Even in every age group!
In Europe the amateurs ride their bikes in a less professional way. Power meters you can only find with the pro riders at the moment. What you do see over here is a rising trend in granfondo’s, triathlons etc. The real endurance stuff. People want to make it to the finish line but the result isn’t that important.
I’ve been told that you’re also a talented artist, a Renaissance woman type:
To say that I am an artist, is a bit over the top, I reckon. I wish I had more time to draw. I work with crayons because I like the texture it gives.
Describe your idea of a perfect holiday:
A lot of nature, adventure. I don’t really like resorts. I’m not a very touristy kind of girl.
Your spirit animal:
I was with the girl scouts and there they give you an animal name during your last year. I was a swallow. They say they’re artistic fliers or something.
What about a favorite meal?
Meatballs with tomato sauce, together with warm cherries, cherry sauce and mashed potatoes with no gravy.
First thing you would do on your first day as a captain of a pirate ship?
Just go to a very beautiful island.
What would you be your chosen superpower?
How many golf balls can you fit in a school bus?
Is it a Belgian school bus? 10,582,361.
What is a coffee ride and what do you do when you’re on one?
I’m very good at coffee rides… It’s just riding a little bit and drinking coffee most of the time. We ride much slower than most of the tourists in a coffee ride. It goes really slow, it’s not doing serious stuff because we do that all the time. We look forward to doing coffee rides. It really is part of training and it’s just a day that you can really enjoy bike riding.
One embarrassing fact people don’t know about you:
I basically fell over my first race bike with clipless pedals the first time I hopped on it. My dad was standing there and he brings up that story every time in every race or whatever- whoever he is talking with… Another thing also with pedals. I was lost during our training camp. So we had to stop at a red light and I was all being cool… So I just grabbed a car who was also waiting at the red light, but they had green before me. I nearly fell while the whole team was there.
What would you like to see/improve in terms of women racing and cycling?
What I would like to see improved in cycling in general, is safety.
On the road and in the races. Do you know that team leaders and staff don’t even need a first aid certification to do their job? They are the first arriving at a crash during a race! To me this is just crazy. It’s not even mandatory to have a first aid kit in the team bus/car. We take so many risks during a race but if something goes wrong it could really go wrong.
The accident of Stig Broeckx is the perfect example. The ambulance following that day wasn’t even checked before the race. I think first aid courses should be followed by the staff of every single team and every year to be able to get a race license.
Women’s cycling could use more professionalism. That all starts with more TV-coverage or media attention. This way sponsors are more interested and budgets could rise. And wouldn’t it be great if it would be mandatory to have a women’s team next to every men’s team at the Pro Tour or World Tour level? They have huge budgets and could make it possible for every girl to get at least a minimal wage. Maybe I’m not thinking realistic but it’s not wrong to dream, right?
Anything else you would like to add about your job as a cyclist and as an ambassador at La Ridley our readers should know about?
Anything is possible. I’m proof that where there is will, there is a way.
I thought hard about whether I should make a trip to Sea Otter this year.
No doubt last year’s inaugural e-bike race at one of America’s premier bike festivals was fun, but I could really use a day off, especially after what turned out to be an intense Saturday in Berkeley.
So I somewhat reluctantly made the drive down to Laguna Seca and in the end, I am glad I did.
As I walked toward the entrance, a friend I haven’t seen since InterBike came out of nowhere and we spent 10 minutes catching up as we treaded closer to the blue overpass. The conversation ranged from kids, life, and a bit of bikes.
Pretty spontaneous but it felt like family.
Once over the blue overpass, my initial plan of attack was to fly under the radar around the expo as long as I could. However, just like my previous conversation, my hopes of staying down low was all but evaporated within five minutes into the expo when I walked by the Boyd booth.
Old pal Richard was there showing them hoops with a couple of Factor O2s, industry chatters…
Somewhere along the way, test rides were offered but since I only had a day there, that just couldn’t happen. With more than 400 exhibitors, even quick drive-by booth visits quickly added up to a significant chunk of time as I jumped between the seemingly sprawling booths and race venues that littered within and outside the famed corkscrew race course.
As cheery racers went to claim their podiums from the day’s criterium and enduro races one after another, I slowly came to realize that Sea Otter is more than racing and new products.
It’s a family gathering of all disciplines where little rippers can share pump track tips with their older brother-in-arms of whom they’ve only seen in YouTube videos; Where aspiring cross-country racers in USA Talent ID jerseys rub shoulders with GT’s Anneke Beerten as Brett Tippie goofs around while filming his latest Just The Tip segment; And eBikes getting along with just about everyone, including them electric surfboards.
In it, I find myself a brief reprieve from the constant barrage of what’s happening around the world. The feeling where you’re so thirsty and suddenly the GU booth just magically appears like a desert oasis on the horizon, along with all the food samples and drinks you can have.
And I am not even mad about falling into one of the many gopher holes, or, as one of my teammates joked, bomb holes that lined the dual slalom course.
With that in mind, perhaps I should treat next year’s Sea Otter as if I was coming home for Thanksgiving.
For me, there’s something to be said about getting your hands dirty only to get the bike looking new, all lubed up and ready to rock.
I would never win a timed bike washing contest but I really don’t mind taking my time scrubbing and tweaking, granted made more enjoyable with some wine and music thrown in. Maybe it’s my personal woosah from the never-ending daddy/husband duty, including the realization I washed my bikes far more often than I washed my car last year.
We can talk about this love for bike washing all day, but you’re not here for that. And honestly, I am not going to write it either since what I’m supposed to tell you about is this Team Issue Washer Buddy from Abbey Bike Tools.
Amongst the unsung heroes in my cleaning kit has been the Morgan Blue Chain Keeper that I reviewed a few years ago. In fact, I loved it so much I bought a second one for traveling and washing multiple bikes. It is a bargain for $7. But as much as it was stupidly affordable and extremely durable, it had its limits, namely the inabilty to shift the rear derailleur, and lately, its incompatibility with thru axles.
There are products from other brands made specifically for thru axles, but I wanted a chain keeper that could do it all.
It seems I’ve finally found the perfect buddy.
Designed by Jason Quade who bought us the ingenious Crombie tool, the Team Issue Wash Buddy is hands down one of the most well-made chain keeper I’ve ever had my hands on. So good it should be on everyone’s holiday stuffers list this year.
At its core is a pulley made with DuPont Delrin for low friction and chemical resistance to solvents. Coupled with the stainless steel spindle where the pulley spins on, the Wash Buddy is made to last. And instead of a set stationary location where the pulley stays during use, the Pulley on the Wash Buddy is designed to glide along the spindle to allow shifting of the rear derailleur.
On my 11-speed bike, I was able to shift to all but the 2 smallest cogs without the chain popping out of the pulley’s deep channels. It’s a small but welcoming design detail I found to be super helpful whenever I need to rid the gunk trapped between the derailleur body.
To top it off, Abbey uses a gorgeous custom skewer from Chico’s Paul Component for its quick release. It’s the same proven design off Paul’s wheel/seatpost skewer, and the lever action has stayed buttery smooth even after repetitive pressure washer treatment.
So what about bikes with thru-axles? Well, the easiest way, as Quade personally showed yours truly at Sea Otter, is to insert only the pulley onto your bike’s axle. While it is entirely possible to use the entire Wash Buddy with the included Paul Skewer by unscrewing and reconnecting the quick release as I did on my very first try, I wouldn’t recommend doing just that though since the whole installation felt rather awkward.
The Team Issue Wash Buddy retails for $75 with the Paul skewer. But Abbey will also sell you just the pulley for $15 should you wash your bike so much you manage to FUBAR yours, or are already all-in with 142×12 thru-axles.
More of that slick finish on the all-carbon disc fork.
Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Toptube logo. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
The SuperX utilizes Shimano's flatmount for both front and rear disc brakes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Schwalbe's excellent X-One knobbies were fast and predictable. I just wish they were tubeless ready. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
The Shimano 105/RS505 levers worked brilliantly but the slight bulge inside the hood was a bit awkward. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Grippy Cannondale gel bar tape. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Fabric's excellent Scoop Shallow Elite was comfortable and easy to clean. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Just can't get enough of that paint job. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Instead of the heavy stock wheels, we spent half of our test period using a pair Stan's ZTR Avion Team and the difference was night and day. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
You’re probably asking why I’m reviewing a ‘cross bike now that cross season is all but over.
But hear me out for a few minutes here.
After InterBike (I know, so long ago), I was told that a SuperX was on its way directly from the show floor and I was stoked! I’ve been hearing a lot of great positive things about the SuperX and simply couldn’t wait to give it a run. But before I got the package, I got called out to cover the Loma Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. So the wife had fun lugging the giant box into the garage. Thank goodness the bike was light.
When I got back from the fire, the box was sitting there taking up all the space in the garage, but wait, there’s a crack in the box. Let’s see which SuperX we have here:
It was the SuperX 105 with arguably the best paint job in the entire line up. I mean, just look at the fork.
But I am not here to review paint jobs and how much it weighs. I want to ride it and maybe abuse it a little to see how much it can or can’t do.
Fast forward to February 2017, the bike is now on its way back to Cannondale and I am sad to say that I am smitten with the SuperX.
Compared to a lot of cross offerings on the market, the SuperX has a rather different geometry than most in such that the headtube notably has more slack (71 degrees) with the fork using a bit more offset. This results in the bike handling nicely on low speed technical stuff yet staying rock steady as speeds head north. I took the SuperX to the Super Moon ride (in the dark) and the more time I spent riding it, the more I realized how much confidence-inspiring the SuperX is even when I was essentially riding blindly with merely the moonlight. Its carbon fiber frame will take all your lines and soak up all your mistakes comfortably.
On the race course, the SuperX takes loose off-camber turns like a champ and the 42.2 cm short chain stay feels agile with plenty of traction at the wheel. The thru-axles (10×100 front, 12×142 rear) also make a difference on long twisty descents when I use it as a gravel bike. Speaking of riding gravel, while the SuperX is a pure-breed cyclocross race bike at heart, it will do gravel very nicely.
Now, I know Cannondale offers a bona fide gravel bike, the Slate, but I don’t care. The SuperX is arguably lighter (our test bike was weighed at a respectable 19.5lbs) and better as a gravel bike than using the Slate as a cross bike, plus I can still use my old wheels as long as 1: they’re disc and thru-axle compatible, and 2: able to re-dish the rear wheel 6mm toward the non-drive side to play nicely with the SuperX’s asymmetrical chain stay (they call it Asymmetric Integration (Ai)).
The stock Maddux 2.0 wheels, though, were a bit of a disappointment. They are tubeless ready alright, but they felt sluggish as if the bike got bogged down by a pair of boat anchors. For comparison sake, I swapped the stock hoops with a pair of Stans’ ZTR Avion Pro (of course I re-dished the rear), a $2,300 upgrade that costs as much as the SuperX 105 itself but the difference was night and day as if the red bull got its wings.
So my suspicion was confirmed: With a good set of race wheels, the SuperX will fly.
And Cannondale, the Schwalbe X-One tires had just about everything I had hoped for in an all-around cross rubber: Plenty of traction and rolls fast, but why not throw in the tubeless version instead? And while I am going to nitpick here, I am just going to say that I am not a fan of the shape of the 105/RS505 hydraulic STI shift brake lever. Functionally, it worked beautifully but the bulbous bulge located inside the lever just never felt right.
So if you’re still wondering why I am writing about a cross bike in February, it’s because…
She stole my heart and I’m ready for cross season to be all season long.
Bike computers are my kryptonite. Yes, even Garmins. I know I’m in a tiny minority on that one, but they’ve always bugged the hell out of me. I can never stop the beeping. Ever. And the problem has gotten the worse the better the computers have become.
No matter how hard I try to work the wireless syncing, I always end up dragging ride files from the unit with a USB cable and dropping them into Strava. I have no patience left. I don’t want to learn how to sync anything. I want to be petulant. I’m proud to be a luddite.
All of this is undoubtedly a user issue. A bicycle version of PEBKAC, as in, problem exists between keyboard and chair. This problem exists between bar-mount and saddle. I know this. But I don’t care. I have no interest in the Quantified Self. I know I suck. I don’t need a computer for confirmation.
Part of the issue is device overload. Life these days can seem like little more than hopping from one screen to the next. Laptops, phones, tablets, smart watches, wi-fi kettles, intelligent fridges … I’m genuinely convinced that someone I know is going to become a real life Theodore Twombly – Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the film Her, who falls in love with his OS – in the next few years. I have some suspicions that it’s happened already.
I’m not going to start talking to the Wahoo Elemnt, but I am smitten. The simple screen is crystal clear and always visible, no matter what conditions you find yourself in, and the uncomplicated interface belies serious functionality. There’s all kinds of connectivity with Bluetooth 4, ANT+, and Wi-Fi, including automatic uploads to social media or everyone’s favorite ride-tracking site, and alerts for incoming calls and messages.
Route directions come with eye-catching color-coded alerts on the LEDs on the side of the unit; if you see those red lights, you’ve made a wrong turn. The LEDs are also customizable to indicate performance and exertion levels. Wahoo claim that it’s waterproof up to five feet, which means that unless you’re the sort who washes their bike in the deep end of a swimming pool, you should be ok. And the battery lasts for ages, even when it’s giving turn-by-turn directions. When used for more basic purposes like data and ride-tracking, it should last for several outings without a charge.
The monochrome display, which is not touchscreen, will be a deal-breaker for some, and a boon for others. Were it not for its myriad features and excellent connectivity, you might call that low-fi. As an overall package, I prefer to think of it as paired back. No computer on the market is easier to set-up or personalize, thanks to its accompanying app, which also checks for updates and warns you if the battery is low. You just pair it quickly with a QR code and unless you want to individualize the info displayed on screen, the process is practically done. And though it’s obviously subjective, I also found it easier to use on the bike. Is it a match for the mighty Garmin? It’s another option. A fool-proof one. Which is great news, for fools like me.
The Bontrager Aeolus D3 TLR Carbon Clinchers. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
The Aeolus D3 uses Bontrager hubs with DT Swiss internals throughout and it has been buttery smooth and problem-free this past year. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Subtle AND removable graphics on the rims mean you can go totally stealth if you so choose. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
At 67g front and 70g rear, the included Bontrager skewers are not going to win any weight weenies battle anytime soon, yet they are very comfortable in hand with a smooth and sure-footed cam action that's close to the venerable Shimano Dura-Ace offering. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Still have plenty of cork left after one year of use. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Dried sealant and an inverse-patched tire patch. That's what the inside of the Bontrager R3 TLR Hard Case Lite looks like after one year of riding. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Let me make this clear: I did not expect myself to like tubeless road tires. My tubulars work just fine.
Plus, I have plenty of spare tubulars (intentionally) aging in my garage waiting for their turns.
Unfortunately, their call-ups might take longer now that I find myself enjoying, well, smitten over these Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 carbon clinchers that we’ve been playing with this past year.
But my love for tubeless road tires didn’t begin this way. In fact, it was like that very first shitty first date.
When the box showed up this past spring, I was as excited as kids running to their gifts under the Christmas tree on Christmas day. Coming in at 1,439 grams (644front/795rear) with the tubeless strip pre-installed and with the tire valves, skewers, and brake pads included, the Aeolus 3 was ready to rock straight out of the box. A bit of elbow grease and voila, got some 26mm Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR tubeless tires installed and off we went.
Then I got a flat on the first ride. Boo.
A 2mm cut from a piece of glass went through the tread and I had just enough air to limp back home thanks to a can of Vittoria Pitstop and pumping more air whenever I could.
It wasn’t pretty and the cleanup aftermath was a pain. Nevertheless, I was able to ride home instead of walking home.
Frustrated but undeterred, I repaired the tire following instructions from Stan’s NoTubes and the tire worked like a charm. When I finally replaced the tires about 10 months later with Schwalbe Pro One , the tires had three major repairs and a handful of cuts that would normally spell the end of a clincher tire. But each time I was able to ride home without having to put in a tube (still have to pack a tube and repair kit with tubeless). And in a few instances, I didn’t even know I punctured until I stopped for my mid-ride coffee.
They have won me over since then and they’re now my go-to wheels. Yes, I reckon my tubulars are still lighter and arguably smoother, but I did find the extra peace of mind and the convenience of road tubeless tires pretty hard to beat. I can pick and choose my tires for the ride/weather without worrying about gluing in advance.
But what about the rest of the wheel? Well, one year of abuse did not do anything to the DT-Swiss internals. They’re still smooth and quiet while the wheels remained true the entire time. The 35mm tall OCLV carbon rim also proved to be durable and comfortable throughout the test. One word of caution: the rims on the Aeolus 3 are significantly wider, measuring at 27mm on the outside with a 19.5 mm inner diameter, so make sure your bike has adequate clearance.
In the crosswind, the Aeolus 3 TLR D3 was easy to handle due to its lower rim height and rim shape, but my oh my, these wheels felt just as fast as some of the taller-rim hoops I’ve been on. Regarding the braking department, Bontrager recommends using their own cork brake pad with the wheels. While cork might lack absolute immediate stopping power, it makes up for its shortcoming by providing a very consistent and manageable lever feel that’s not so bad after getting used to it.
I also love the Aeolus’ overall minimalistic graphics. Big enough to show its maker yet not overly obnoxious as if I was a rolling billboard. And for those that want even more stealth, rejoice my friend, the decals on the rims can be easily removed since they are not water transferred decals with a clear coat on top.
If there’s any cleft with the Aeolus 3 TLR, it would be its $2,400 price tag. Pricey, yes, but a worthy prime candidate for those who are looking for those holy grail hoops for both training and racing with the added benefit of being tubeless. This is a set of hoops that could go fast without beating up the rider. I am addicted.
If you are attracted to the idea of spending a wet winter bicycle commuting in comfort and safety, the affordable Showers Pass Club Pro Jacket, a heavier-duty shell fit for layering on the bike, could be a great cornerstone of your regular getup. Yet if you are looking for an on-off stowable jacket for conditions that evolve over the course of a recreational ride, you might want to look elsewhere in the lineup.
The Club Pro shell is of a classic design, made of a waterproof fabric that drops lower in the back and sleeves cut for a better fit on the bike. It also features zipper-clad vents at the armpits, ventable pockets on the torso and a large horizontal vent above the shoulder blades. A drawstring closure at the waist, Velcro wrist cuffs and a soft fabric neck keep things cozy.
This particular model also features a color so shockingly fluorescent that this tester swore the pigment must have come from another dimension. Showers Pass offers this jacket in a spectrum of hues, all with reflective features.
The fundamental design challenge for a jacket like this is to balance rain protection with ventilation. A garbage bag provides great rain protection, for example, yet will quickly become a horrible swamp during physical exertion.
Rain was a non-issue while wearing the Club Pro during a 14-mile jaunt across a rainy Portland, Oregon. Moisture accumulation within the jacket itself was also not a problem, no doubt thanks in part to the large back vent.
Toward the end of the trip, with things getting a little toasty, the other vents were easy to unzip while wearing heavy gloves and provided plenty of cooling without water intrusion. It’s notable to me that the pit vents are short and shielded by the arm, compared to rain shells designed for other outdoor pursuits that tend to have very long vents running along much of the torso.
I’m no stranger to rainy-day cycling, having ridden hundreds of cumulative miles in the pouring winter wet while much of the cycling public was cultivating its love/hate relationship with the turbo trainer. It is absolutely possible to ride in total comfort with the right gear, which hinges most of all on the right rain shell.
To me, this shell is best for very cold and wet commutes, rather than high-intensity recreational rides. The fit is rather generous in the torso, making it easy to layer up with a bulky fleece and other items that are unlikely to come off during an early-morning ride.
The material of the shell itself is burly, making this a garment that does not pack as well as other options. Yet for something that will stay on over the course of a ride, it’s not a bad thing to have something that seems likely to withstand a lot of abuse.
Those looking for something packable still have options from Showers Pass, including the lightweight Spring Classic Jacket. Yet at just over $100, compared to $289 for the Spring Classic, the Club Pro is a solid and relatively affordable option in a shell likely to last several years.
As for the color — with the sun low in the sky in the winter months, assuming the sun is out at all, you are wise to have a little extra visibility. But if radioactive yellow isn’t your thing, you’ve got options.