My new Prolight Techlaces are Fire Engine Red and Ready to Stomp

Giro Prolight Techlace
Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

When my new kicks showed up at the house I thought I made a huge mistake.

These Giro Prolight Techlace are flippin’ red.

Sure, I ordered them in red.

And thus theoretically I should have known what I was getting myself into.

The thing is I am a black or gray kind of guy. It was a pretty radical move for me a couple of years ago when I started wearing white cycling shoes. But as sweet looking as a pair of clean white cycling shoes may be, it is a losing battle from the very second you step out the door.

So I decided maybe it’s time to change it up a bit. Hence the fiery red Giro Prolight Techlace.

They’re as red as the Louboutin bottoms that seem to be roaming all over San Francisco these days. I don’t know how comfortable Louboutins are, nor will I ever have the aspiration to give them a shot. What I do know is that after riding with the Prolight Techlaces since July, they are a pretty unique pair of shoes and I now embrace the color red.

Coming off a pair of the Empire SLX which I’ve grown to love, the transition into the flagship Prolight Techlace was an easy one. The shoe shape and the adjustable SuperNatural insoles felt pretty much identical.

Giro Prolight Techlace Textreme carbon outsoles and bonded walking pad
Textreme carbon outsoles and bonded walking pad to keep the grams down. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

What was immediately noticeable was how light they were. My pair touched the scale at 311 grams for a size 43. The weight reduction was noticeable whenever I switched shoes, thanks in part to the new Textreme carbon outsoles with non-adjustable titanium cleat mounts which amount to being 22% lighter than the already feathery Easton EC90SLX2 plate.

Giro Prolight Techlace monofilament mesh with welded Tejin TPU exoskeleton upper
Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

The upper material, a monofilament mesh with welded Tejin TPU exoskeleton, is an interesting one. It sounds like a really badass engineering exercise reserve but it’s very breathable – perfect for those hot summer days. You might want to add thicker socks or shoe covers for fall/winter riding though.

Further, the upper is also more pliable than any other cycling shoes that I’ve tried. While I enjoyed the way they hug my feet, I sort of miss having that extra structural support from uppers made with other thicker material. As fragile as those mesh uppers may seem, they held up surprisingly well. The heel cup, while not as rigid as some, was slip-free and comfortable.

Giro Prolight Techlace closure system
Photo: Stephe Lam/ element.ly

And then there is the Techlace closure system. I was skeptical about the hook-and-loop that just seemed a little too thin and slip-prone, but they never budged during the past four months. I love being able to adjust them on the fly and also have the benefit of shoelaces. That said, shoes with traditional laces and Boas will give a tighter, locked down feeling that some prefer.

So is being the lightest and most ventilated worth the $399.99 price tag? I love wearing mine and the fit happened to work out for me. That said, the Prolight Techlaces are definitely not your typical kicks. They felt like specialist racing shoes targeting a specific audience like the Mavic Ultimate Tri for triathlons or the Bont Crono for time trials. As a flagship above the Empire SLX, the Prolight felt a tad like how the iPhone X is nice to have while the iPhone 8 will do just about everything in the same capacity with a lower price tag.

If you’re looking for the absolute lightest and most ventilated shoes for those hot days on the mountain, though, the Prolight Techlaces may just be the kicks for you.

By the way, the Prolight Techlaces are still cheaper than those Louboutins.


Lighten Up With The Giro Prolight Techlace

The über light Giro Prolight Techlace. Photo: Giro
The über light Giro Prolight Techlace. Photo: Giro

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any lighter, Giro drops their new Prolight Techlace.

I first saw these prototype 150 gram super shoe at InterBike back in September and they were so freakishly light I honestly thought they were too good to be true. It sounded like a concept car that was more of an engineering exercise, never reaching the public. I was wrong.

At 150 grams per shoe, the new Prolight Techlace is about 25 grams lighter than the already feathery Empire SLX lace ups. And Giro was able to pull it off with some pretty unique engineering features.

See those checker pattern on the outsole? That's a tell-tale sign of TeXtreme fibers being used. Photo: Giro
See that checkered pattern on the outsole? That’s a tell-tale sign of TeXtreme fibers being used. Photo: Giro

Instead of the Easton EC90 SLX2 high-modulus carbon plates found in previous flagship models, the new outsole employs TeXtreme spread tow carbon fiber manufactured by Sweden’s Oxeons that uses flat tape versus the conventional yarn-shaped fibers. With such configuration, less resin is needed without losing any stiffness. The new TeXtreme outsole is said to be 22% lighter.

Moving upward, a custom monofilament fiber mesh is used as its upper. For better structure and increased durability, a thermoplastic polyurethane film by Japanese chemical giant Teijin is then strategically welded over the mesh to act as an exoskeleton, hence the seemingly two-tone looking upper.

For fasteners, the Prolight replaces the sole Boa dial found on the Factors and went with three Techlaces incorporating the comfort of shoelaces with the ease and on-the-fly adjustability of a conventional strap.  The tried and trued SuperNatural adjustable insole remains, so it should have a similar fit to existing Giro shoe users.

The Prolight Techlace is available now for $400 in red, white and black. Sure, it’s a lot of dough for a pair of kicks, but these might just fit the bill if you’re looking for the absolute lightest without going full-on custom and they’re still cheaper than a pair of Yeezy Boost 350s.

Giro Prolight Techlace
Photo: Giro

Relive InterBike

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Welcome to InterBike 2016! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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PURPLE PURPLE MORE PURPLE PLEASE Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Everyone seems to be making their own cycling computers these days but one thing that caught my attention about this Stages Dash computer is its claim of 30-hour battery life. Hey, you can now record your entire 24 hr bike race in one charge! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Shouldn't this fall under the e-motorcycle category? Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Otso Voytek got a good buzz throughout the show. Carbon frame that can take 27.5+ or 29+ AND up to 26 x 4.6” tires on 70 mm rims? Sign me up. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Lightweight's amazingly light Meilenstein has finally gone disc. The Meilenstein C Disc is a thing of beauty but was a bit disappointed to find out the rim width is still 20mm external and 17.8mm internal. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Giro's Factor Techlace sure looked different but it made a lot of sense after checking it out at the booth. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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I have to admit I was drawn to the Orbea booth by the dazzle paint job on this prototype Terra gravel bike. Looks even better in person. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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A 3D-printed Syntace FlatForce stem and a real Syntace FlatForce stem photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Let's admit it, skinsuit is a pain to put on. But Giordana might have an answer with their Quick On zippered suit system. More aero than a bib/jersey combo but easier and more versatile than a traditional skinsuit. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Dario Pergoretti's paint work never ceases to impress and this Responsorium in Ravenna finish is just so fresh. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Just can't get enough of this 3T Exploro. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Slovenia-based Unior tools might not be a household brand here in the States, but they've been around since 1919 and chances are you will see the tools a lot more in the States this coming year. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Australia-based Knog brought their newest Oi bell to Interbike. It's dramatically different than one's image of a bell, but it's an interesting take just like their line of LED blinker lights. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Old-school-esque e-bike, anyone? photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Poor tire, its one and only job is just to be poked. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

We had a glitch on the site in the days after InterBike, so this post is way past due but the unplanned slow down also meant more time to relive this year’s InterBike

While the gallery above is going to highlight all the fun stuff… Below are the observations from the show floor.

– First, the appointments. I got smart this year and did a bunch of appointments in advance to check out offerings from various brands. So my InterBike was more structured, with shots of adrenaline from random drive-bys to booths I didn’t know much about.

– The buzz I kept hearing was “it’s pretty quiet this year.” Well, that was true. The show was smaller than last year’s. I honestly could have just spent a day there. One industry veteran commented on how he/she was checking out people’s badges and noticed there weren’t as many buyers at the show as there used to be, and he/she would be pretty pissed if they got a booth… All about the ROI, guys.

– On the outskirts of the show floor was arguably where the fun was… I got a pitch about a solar USB charger stating “looks like you can use one of those” during day one. At the other end of the hall was also a booth that sells handheld electric massage devices. The massage device booth definitely saw an uptake in traffic on Thursday, possibly due to the walking from day one on the floor + CrossVegas hangover collab.

It's true. Someone tried to sell me this solar usb charger during the show. Photo:Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Really thought the days of scantily-clad booth women were a thing of past. But I was wrong. I mean, okay, sex (allegedly) sells. But wouldn’t money be better spent on making a better product instead of having models promoting shitty products (and offending the female attendees while at it)?

Amount of broken arms/legs: It dawned on me during day two that there were quite a few people in slings/braces. Guess adventure shows must have a few of those around. As one rep put it “they’re getting after it”.

Reception of e-Bike: Last year was all about e-bike bashing and all of a sudden e-bikes are the future this year.

Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

The international aisle. Probably the quieter, less buzz sections but everyone there was pretty cool to talk to (knowing Mandarin and Cantonese definitely helped) and they really deserve more recognition for their efforts of travelling across the globe to Las Vegas to showcase their products, whether it’s the gazillion lights, matte carbon fiber parts, or aluminum parts in all the imaginable anodized colors one can possibly dream of.

Three spokes, five spokes, no spoke, the international isle have got you covered. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Best snack from the show: Vanilla Ice Cream at the Skratch booth made with their new recovery drink mix. Not only was the line 4,000 times shorter than the Starbucks line outside but it was also freaking delicious. Way different than the typical “come by our booth for free booze” hook too.

Last thing I did at the show: tried an e-bike at the rep’s prudent suggestion, only to make it 30 plus feet before a security guard rolled up and warned “no biking on the show floor”. Returned the bike to the booth, walked down the aisle, and was greeted by two bros zipping past on motorized scooters.


Treat Yourself to an End of Tour Shopping Spree

Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

I normally associate the end of Le Tour the unofficial end of summer: When I was in school, the end of the Tour meant it was time to start thinking about the mandatory quarter/semester textbook ripoffs, and when I graduated from j-school the end of the tour meant, well, shit there’s no more cycling on TV for a while, perhaps I should work and bike more.

But one consistent summer activity I remember well is gear shopping. It’s a pretty cute idea to have a Tour De France-themed daily sale, to get all your year’s worth of Scratch on stage one and wrap it up with buying the 11-23 Dura-Ace cassette on the final day at Champs-Élysée.

So here are a few products we’ve been pretty smitten with lately. They are the few I won’t regret buying or recommending to my friends. You are my friend too, after all.

Kitsbow Geysers’ Jersey

Kitsbow Geysers' Jersey Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

We’ve been a fan of Kitsbow‘s offering for a while and the Petaluma company’s first foray in road-specific apparel did not disappoint. Clean, understated lines and it’s quickly becoming a favorite go-to for those long, all-day adventures. The Geysers’ are made of a 43% Merino and 57% Polyester blend so they’re slightly thicker and more durable (more on that in a sec) than your average typical spandex jerseys, yet they still breathe unbelievably well.

The fit was spot on. Not too tight and doesn’t like you’re letting it all hang out. Longer sleeves are also a welcomed addition. Kitsbow deserves a big high-five for the Geysers’ well-executed pocket arrangements. Besides the three standard rear pockets, there’s also a chest pocket for small items (perfect for credit cards), a water-resistant pocket in the back (for your phone), and there’s even a pump sleeve inside the center rear pocket, that I use to store sticks of CLIF Bloks.

I was in a pretty good crash while wearing one at the PressCamp MTB ride in Park City. I went over the bar and dented my helmet but the Geysers’ remained in one piece. Not what I expected from wearing a road jersey on a full-on mtb ride. Didn’t rip, didn’t break. I am now a fan. Extra credit: Kitsbow even included a microfiber cloth in the chest pocket for your phone/computer/glasses. It’s all in the details.

King Cage Titanium Water Bottle Cage

King titanium water bottle cage. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

I’ve had my run with water bottle cages and the one that I keep going back to is the King titanium cage. It’s a classy-looking, light as a feather (28g, thank you titanium) cage individually made from a one-man shop out of Durango, Colorado that just keeps working. It’s the only cage that I’ve used in which I haven’t lost a bottle with. Unlike carbon fiber cages, the bottle retention is actually adjustable so it’ll hold even that odd-sized bottle from your last grand fondo. If $60 is too steep of a price tag, King also makes an identical, albeit heavier version out of stainless steel that works just as well for $18.

TUFMED TUFRELIEF

TUFMED TUFRELIEF rub. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Ahh, muscle and joint sores. With a raging one-year-old at home and touting all the cameras for work (and my bike), my dominant shoulder hasn’t really been the same. I’ve tried plenty of over-the-counter rubs for relief in the past with decent results but TUFRELIEF is my current favorite. It’s non-toxic, non-greasy, made in the U.S. with no banned substances and odorless: I can now rub it all over myself and go to work (or any coffee shop) without smelling like I just got out of a medicinal hotbox.

Giordana EXO compression knicker

Giordana EXO compression knickers. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

You read that right, there’s a knicker for a summer gear product review. I was never much of a knicker type of guy to begin with, but Giordana’s EXO compression knicker was impressive to say the least. Unlike most knickers on the market, the EXO is actually designed for warm weather riding and extends further down the knee for better zone compression by integrating eight (!) different types of fabrics throughout. It’s perfect for those morning rides around San Francisco where it doesn’t get either super warm or super cold. Giordano’s variable thickness Cirro OF chamois is also worth mentioning because it fits just right and is oh so comfortable. Heck, the proprietary chamois even has memory foam and aloe vera infused right into it.

Giro Empire SLX

Giro Empire SLX. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

There’s been plenty of reviews in print and on the ‘net about this shoe because of the shoelaces so I’ll just go straight to the point: Don’t hate until you’ve tried it (I know there are still many of you out there). The Empire SLX is freakishly light and comfortable. The Easton EC90 SLX carbon sole is stiff but Giro still managed to keep it so thin that I never felt disconnected from the pedals as if I was riding with a pair of Jimmy Choo Portia 120s. And the shoelaces? I was skeptical about them initially but I am now a fan.

ITW Tac Link Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

ITW Tac Link: Not exactly a cycling specific product but all you carabiner-wearing people will rejoice at the fact that you can use this without feeling like you’ve just connected yourself to your keys by the ways of a boat anchor. Just don’t go climbing with this one.

Kuwahara Hirame pump head

My Kuwahara Hirame pump head has gotten a bit of rust and scratches from constant use the past few years but I am sure it will outlast just about every single toy in my garage. Plus what's not to love for a bit vintaged look (and feel?) Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Similar to the KCNC pump head Jim reviewed earlier this year but this has been one of those tools I am super happy with. My teammates were a bit confused with this whole solid piece of brass at a team camp a few years back, but honestly I haven’t had one of those pump heads flying off the valve incidents since I got this, and it’ll even clamp on the slipperiest tubular valves with authority like no other

Knog Binder MOB Kid Grid

Knog Binder MOB Kid Grid in it's element. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Let’s just say this little guy’s totally lit. Silicone mounting brackets are simple to use and won’t mar, or slip off your fancy carbon seatpost. Five modes from its grid of 16 (!) LEDs to choose from, low battery indicator and even an integrated USB charging plug. Oh, and it’s waterproof. With all those features, you’d think it would be as big as a phablet but no, this is one well designed and executed taillight.

Jagwire Elite Link shift/brake kit

Jagwire Jagwire Elite Link brake kit. Stephen Lam/element.ly

Okay, it’ll take more time to setup than traditional cable kits but the tradeoff is well worth the extra time and money spent. Concept wise it’s similar to Nokon, Alligator, and Power Cordz Swift by connection small aluminum links over a slick Teflon liner to create a lightweight and compressionless system that’ll play nicely with tight bends. I’ve been running both the brake and shift kit on a Dura Ace 9000 group for about a year and am happy to say it’s so durable, accurate, smooth and crisp that I don’t ever want to go back to regular cables. Pro tip: The housing squeals every once in a while but a small dab of Tri-Flow between the problematic links will take care of it.


Shoes Even Your Mother Would Love

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I don’t do “gnar.” Perhaps sometimes I do “epic,” but definitely not gnar. Why? I like my teeth. My mom paid a lot of her hard-earned teacher salary on straightening my grill in junior high, so I figure I can at least keep it dialed for her. It seems to me like most “gnar” prospects on a bicycle can involve broken body parts. I will just continue to sit back and watch Red Bull Rampage on the interwebs from my couch, thanks.

So then these slick Freerider ELC shoes from Five-Ten showed up on my doorstep and suddenly I felt inadequate. Not “metal” enough. Not “shred” worthy enough. Can I wear these? I mean, I’m almost 40 and have a lot of Lycra in my closet. But I do have a fat bike with flat pedals and baggy shorts. Time to stoke my inner F*¢K YEAH !! (Sorry Mom)

Mind you, these are no Chucks or Kursks or fixie messenger shoes. These kicks are killer: a durable upper with a protective strap to cover the laces from picking up cholla barbs; a solid, firm but walkable sole that doesn’t flex on the pedals; and a grippy tread that doesn’t slip. Nothing is going to break through this skin. And they are SOO comfy on the inside, like velvet socks for your hooves. Lace ’em up tight and let ‘er rip. Tough on the outside, soft on the inside. Just like any downhiller’s mom would want.

Now while I still don’t plan to dabble in the “gnar,” at least I have some good coverage if my #rideepicshit plans start to get nasty. Use protection. Make every day you return from the trail in one piece a Happy Mothers’ Day. Your feet will thank you, too.

You can pick up a pair here: Freerider ELC shoes


Rapha Climber’s Shoes Are The Kicks You’ve Been Looking For

Rapha Climber's shoes. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Rapha Climber’s shoes. Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly

I’m vain. You are too. Admit it. You don’t like it when someone compliments your bike or your kit? You lie. Cyclists are the peacocks of the sporting world.

From my first ride with Rapha’s Climber’s shoes, I was in love, because my buddy noticed them immediately. Sure, they performed well too, but I was expecting that. Anyone making high-end cycling products that don’t work flawlessly in 2016 should be ashamed of themselves. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to functionality. When it comes to fashion, however, it can often be slim pickings.

Designed in conjunction with Giro, they combine the latest technology from the American shoe and helmet maker—such as the uber-stiff EC90 SLXII sole—with classic looks that match right up with the Rapha aesthetic. The perforated body is a nod to shoes of yesteryear, while the simple velcro straps provide a nice, uncluttered appearance on top.

Rapha Climber's shoes. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Rapha Climber’s shoes. Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly

The British brand’s minimalist offering differs significantly from their GT model, providing a pared back option for the rider looking for a fast, comfortable, good-looking shoe without any bells or whistles. The Climber model weighs in at 215g compared to the 320g GT version, and comes with three velcro straps instead of the ratchet or wire closure systems popular with other manufacturers.

They don’t look very “technical”—industry speak for designed in the dark—but they’ll perform with the best of ’em. Nothing fancy, nothing loud, just comfortable kicks you can put on and forget about. Some people might like something flashier, and that’s fine. If you like metallic colored shoes covered in flags and logos, go for it. Whatever floats your boat. But for yours truly, these were just the ticket. Understated, functional and lightweight—the holy trinity of desirable characteristics for any (wannabe) stylish cyclist. Now if only it were warm enough to take these pesky shoe-covers off.


Bontrager’s New Shoe Game Is on Point

Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

First Bontrager brought their high-end road helmet game into play with any other helmet on the market with the Velocis and now they have landed a set of kicks worthy of shoe lust.

The XXX, XXX LE and even the Velocis are all a step in the right direction for Bontrager.

I unboxed a pair of the crispy white XXX beauties, mounted up a set of cleats with the help of my fit-wise friend, spun up the Boa dials and ran out the door for a 85 kilometer ride in the the hills of Chianti.

The fit is excellent and the Clarino microfiber upper is a beautiful mix between suppleness and toughness to make the kicks comfortable and scuff resistant.

These are not exactly designed to be cozy, but I found them to be reasonably comfortable, with excellent stiffness brought by the carbon sole.

It needs to be pointed out how many of my riding partners were jealous of my new shoes and somewhat surprised they were from Bontrager.

Bontrager is dialing in their high-end game one category at a time and we can’t wait to see where they go next.