If you’ve been riding a long time, you probably have a fine collection of saddle bags. It’s just one of those things that we keep buying. Like the next one is going to be the one, the bag that fits all you want to fit, that doesn’t bounce around, or weigh a ton, or rub off your inner thighs when you’re high up on the saddle, or, worst of all, look like a Fred accessory on your hot new race machine.
Aesthetically, I’m been a fan of the classic pre-glued tubular neatly wrapped and tucked under the saddle, but that means having a couple of CO2 cartridges and a multi-tool bouncing around in your rear jersey pockets, which can be annoying. A storage bottle that slots right into your second cage is great too, right until you want to go on a long ride mid-summer and find yourself scrambling around for the old saddle bag so that you can carry more water.
I loved Scicon’s Roller 2.1 system where the bag clicked onto a quick release bracket … right until I hit a pothole and my pack went flying. In the middle of a fast descent in a granfondo. And so I gravitated back to the simplest of them all, a beat-up old rectangular pouch that’s secured to the seat posts with a long, wraparound piece of velcro. Hardly bling, but it worked.
Then along came Silca’s Grande Americano seat roll. Same idea – something wraps around it to secure it to the saddle rails – but instead of velcro, it’s a fancy BOA system, that most of you are probably familiar with from your shoes.
It’s exactly what you’d expect from Silca these days: Carefully considered, well-made, and at $58, not exactly cheap. There’s a lot of storage potential and it’s all kept tidy by three interior compartments that fold over onto one another. I had to pack and unpack a couple of times to get it to fold up the way I wanted – ie, as compact as possible – but now it’s a pleasure to use, with easy access to everything I could need on a ride. I carry some CO2, some tyre levers, a spare tube (Silca’s Latex offering is awesome if you swing that way), a mini-tool and a patch kit, but there’s room in there for more if you don’t mind it looking a bit bulkier.
So is it worth it? Well, in a sport where it’s OK to spend $30 on a fancy cream to rub on your crotch, I’d have to say yes. You could pick another saddle bag out of a bargain bin somewhere, and for a fraction of the price, it will do the same job. It just won’t do it as well. And it’s not like tyres or bar-tape that you’ll be replacing once or twice a season. Treat yourself, it will last for years, and if you’re a nerd like me, every time you open it you’ll get a little kick of smug satisfaction looking at how tidy all your stuff is.
The expo at Sea Otter has always been an integral part of the festival where enthusiasts can see, touch, purchase the latest gear, rub elbows with the pros, and score free swag. If you like any of the aforementioned things, then the 2018 edition which happened exactly a week ago with a sold out exhibit space featuring 500 exhibitors, would be right up your alley. It was even better than InterBike to be honest, and here’s a condensed version of what I saw.
Bikepacking is all the rage now and I spotted this sweet saddlebag from German bag specialist Ortlieb. Besides the use of obligatory waterproof fabrics, the $145, 11-liter, medium sized Seat Pack M features a stiffened bottom for stability while its small footprint is full-suspension and dropper post friendly. It’s got a roll top and bright orange compression straps to keep your content from bouncing around, but Ortlieb upped the game further with the inclusion of a purge valve on the side to enable users to compact it down even more.
Instead of showing a complete lineup of their rigs, GT had this little booth highlighting their history in full-suspension. There was a RTS, LTS, i-Drive, iT1… You know it. This 1998 STS-DH Lobo still looked amazing and oh the memories.
Shimano didn’t have a whole lot of new stuff to show, but they did show us their newest Ultegra RX rear derailleur which is basically a road derailleur with a Shadow Plus clutch to combat against chain slap and retention over rough terrains. The target audience? All you cyclocross gravel riders. The $109.99 RD-RX800 mechanical derailleur is compatible with both 1x and 2x 11-speed drivetrains and up to a 11-34 cassette. Available this summer.
Besides the RX derailleur, Shimano also has this purpose-built trail work rig for the organizers of the Trans-Casadia race. Built around a Shimano Steps e-bike system, the custom Sycip bike comes with a rack to carry a chainsaw, extra fuel and battery for the bike, full internal cable routes, and is adorned with more bling bits from ENVE. I just want to take this bike when I go camping.
Goodyear is diving head first into bicycle tires. We’ve covered the road-going Eagle All-Season in detail in another post. And here’s an up close look at their Newton tire intended for aggressive trail, enduro and downhill. The level of detail Goodyear has put in to it from its textured, reinforced casing to the precision-molded knobs is simply amazing. The Newton comes in both 27.5 and 29 from $70-$90 depending on the compound and casing selected.
Fi’Zi:K is an official sponsor of Team Movistar and it’s nice to see the Italian company offering their top of the line Infinito R1 shoe with Movistar blue trim equally for both men and women. It’s nice to see companies stepping up their efforts in treating women’s pro cycling equally, plus this special edition shoe looked GREAT in person.
Since we’re talking about shoes, Speedplay’s founder Richard Bryne showed me his latest project: An ultra thin carbon outsole. It doesn’t look like much but Bryne told us his latest creation with Shimano SPD-SL cleat is about one centimeter lower than a pair of Shimano shoes with the same cleat. The outsole has just been granted its own patent and while there wasn’t any word on when it would ever hit production, the original Speedplay pedal started out as a personal project too…
Vision has had the Metron 4D aero handlebar for a while now but the latest version, the Metron 4D Flat M.A.S, is aimed at those who might want to mount a time trial extension from time to time for that one time trial or triathlon. Besides the obvious cable routing for electronic wires and a comfortable aero flat top, Vision engineers added a mounting slot on both ends near the center clamp where one can quickly install the extensions and be done with it. It’s perfect for those who can only have one bike.
Kask introduced the $249 Valegro helmet with Team Sky at Tour De France last year and these lightweight lids are finally available in the States. Weighing in at a claimed 180-grams for a size small, it’s generous 37 air vents means your noggin’ will stay cool in the heat of the battle. It also includes antibacterial, fast-drying padding and Kask’s signature eco-leather strap to make every ride a comfortable outing.
Swiss apparel maker Assos not only showed up in their trademark Mobile Showroom, but they also brought their newest XC collection to show. The XC jersey comes with an earthier color palette and is tailored for riding in a more upright position which mountain and gravel riders are more likely to be in. Say goodbye to road jerseys pulling all over the place.
Assos also showed a pair of their new off-road Rally bib with a more activity-specific cut and an outer panel now interwoven with Dyneema polyethylene fiber to protect against abrasion and be more durable because mishaps on dirt happen way more than we’d like to admit and it sucks to ruin a pair of bibs worth a few Benjamins.
Longtime grip maker ODI got the usual collection of its Lock-On clamps in all kinds of colors but they also have these grip-inspired drink coozies for your cold one. These $8 sleeves come in 8 colors and grabs just as well as its line of grips. Also works as a joke to tell the unsuspecting that it is a new grip diameter standard.
These Italian-made Mint socks not only look sharp, but for every pair purchased a dollar goes towards National Interscholastic Cycling Association. Minted plans to release new, one and done designs in limited quantities on a quarterly basis so don’t wait before they’re gone for good, and for a good cause.
Steel is still real and New Jersey-based Von Hof showcased the ACX painted in eye-popping orange. Handbuilt in the US with the intention to be a dual cyclocross and gravel adventure machine, the Columbus-steeled ACX features a liberal use of custom-shaped tubes with a racing geometry, 40mm tire clearance, front and rear thru-axle, and then surprised us with a T47 bottom bracket. The $2,395 ACX comes in six standard sizes in two-color paint of your choosing with a matching ENVE CX Disk Fork. If stock sizing is not your thing, VonHof is also happy to make a custom one for you starting at $3,250.
IRC is making a comeback to the tire scene and the Boken is the Japanese tiremaker’s latest gravel tire. Available in 36c and 40c, the $80 tire uses a proven diamond center tread for speed with taller knobs on the side for cornering over rough roads. It’s tubeless ready and IRC have decided to go with a single-ply casing to be lighter and conform to the terrain better than multi-ply tires. We were told the tires were a hit at the recent road-heavy Belgian Waffle Ride and can’t wait to try ours.
Oregon-based Sage titanium showed off their prototype Flow Motion hardtail. According to owner David Rosen, the Flow Motion will come with a few firsts. It will be Sage’s first mountain frame and first model to be built entirely in-house. Designed to be paired with a 120 to 150mm fork, the long-travel hardtail is what Rosen envisions as a do-it-all dirt bike with room to accommodate up to 27.5x 2.8 or 29x 2.35 tires. The Flow Motion will be available for $3,900 frame only and customers will be able to build their own bikes on Sage’s web configurator.
Silca had a relatively small booth this year but they did have a few of their prototype Sicuro titanium bottle cages lying around.
Syncros almost broke the internet on the first day of Sea Otter with these super lightweight Silverton SL carbon hoops. OK, lightweight carbon hoops, we’ve heard that before, what makes these Syncros so unique, however is that the entire wheel from its 31mm (26mm internal) hookless rim, carbon spoke, and hubshell (with DT Swiss 190 ceramic hub guts) are tensioned and molded as one piece that is said to improve its strength and stiffness. At $3,500 per set, these Centerlock-only puppies sure ain’t cheap but what is $3,500 in the name of marginal gain?
I am a dad now so kids bikes are always on my radar and I couldn’t help myself but to stop and stare at this wooden Early Rider Bonsai balance bike. Besides its one-piece Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified marine ply birch veneer frame, the other visually striking part about the Bonsai is its one-sided rear wheel that makes it almost too gorgeous to be a kids bike. It’s got 12-in Kenda tires rolling on sealed hub bearings, a real 1-1/8 headtube with a real headset, an aluminum cockpit and a classy riveted saddle. It’s also only $159. Here’s a kids bike I actually want to keep around in my house for once.
Continental might seem comparatively slow in terms of tire development but they are by no means slackers. The German tiremaker takes their time in development and opts to perfect the product and safety instead of just throwing it out there. Tires such as the Grand Prix 4000 is a prime example of how they prefer getting it right the first time and thus remains to be a popular choice all these years. For 2018 they have revamped their mountain bike tires, not one, but four of their bestsellers: The Trail King, Race King, Cross King, and Mountain King. Highlights include updated thread patterns, improved casing with Cordura to eliminate sealant leakage, a less pronounced checker pattern on the sidewalls and finally, thread on the Mountain King (second tire from left) co-developed with fellow compatriot and frequent collaborator Adidas based on the trail running specific Continental rubber outsole. The new tires are available in 27.5, 29 and also 26 because they know many of us still love to ride our “outdated” bikes with 26in wheels.
Silca’s new Seat Capsule Premio is going to resonate with a certain kind of cyclist. The kind who hates dangling saddle bags, who reaches underneath on every ride to make sure they haven’t lost it, or who just wishes that the functional, necessary little package under their saddle could look a little bit better.
Building on the popularity of Silca’s seat roll, this is a rigid seat pack, secured to the saddle rails using the Boa Closure System, just like its soft stablemate. It will suit anyone who prefers a more structured bag than what a roll has to offer.
Silca says that the Seat Capsule Premio was designed to suit the needs of a range of cyclists thanks to its large carrying capacity, while a high-strength thermoformed shell creates a modular structure with a void that can hold two 700x30mm inner tubes. The capsule also features two internal pocket dividers, which comfortably hold a set of tire levers, a multi-tool, a CO2 regulator and up to three CO2 cartridges.And all in a neat little package that won’t bounce around back there. We look forward to trying one.
In just a blink of an eye, we are already two months into 2018. The Super Bowl has come and gone, Cross Worlds is over and done with and the Coast Ride is already a distant memory. How has your riding been so far?
I know it’s still technically considered “deep winter” for the better part of the country and that it wouldn’t be right to break out the short sleeves just yet. But spring is coming, and here are a few pieces of gear that I’m looking forward to rocking this year.
Time has been making their ATAC (Auto Tension Adjust Concept) pedals for as long as I can remember. I still have my very first pair after 15 years of abuse racing mountain bikes, cyclocross, or running late to meet up friends at coffee shops across town. I love them for their ease of entry and the fact that mud has nothing on them so I can always stay clipped in. The ATAC’s generous 6mm lateral and +/- 5º float are easy on my sensitive knees. Like all pedals, there’s a familiarization time to get acquainted with them but they are now second nature and for me they really are the ultimate set ’em and forget ’em pedals. Their low-profile cleats are reversible to provide either a 13º or 17º of release angle to your own liking, as well. The made in France ATAC XC6 is right in the middle of the ATAC lineup which is essentially the happy medium between price ($150) and weight (293 grams).
When I was at an industry ride last year, I was told saddlebags are lame. Well, I don’t care. I like my saddlebag and I prefer to have a second water bottle. My Jandd was finally showing its age so I replaced it with a Silca Seat Roll Premio. I love the durable waxed canvas material and three-pocket design allowing me to separate my tubes, mini tool and CO2 cartridge, so I don’t have to resort to a sad ziplock baggie or worry about tools rubbing on the tube. It’s also waterproof and the quilted reflective thread is a nice touch. My favorite part about the $48 Premio, however, is the Boa enclosure system. I am not sure why no one put a Boa on a saddle bag sooner, but it’s such a brilliant move. The Boa allows for more adjustments than traditional hook-and-loops so I can really tighten it down onto the saddle rail. There’s also a button at the end of the enclosure for extra security. I can attest to its effectiveness after I forgot to close the Boa before going on a 45+ mph run down Olympic Parkway in Park City.
I’ve been using this double-walled vacuum insulation bottle for a little over a year now and it officially my go-to bottle. Its 18/8 stainless steel construction has a few dents and dings from repeated trial-by-fire beating by myself, the wife and the kids combined, but it still works like it did on day one, in keeping beverages chilled or hot. The powder-coated finish has proven to be very durable too.
The 40 oz version is so ginormous I have yet to track down a cupholder big enough to hold it, but whatevs, I love this bottle. The angled, BPA-free spout cap is designed to be snapped into the handle and it’s quite a nice touch once you get used to it. If the 40 oz is just too big to stow your coffee, sake, whisky, or water, CamelBak also makes a smaller 20 oz version.
Seriously, bar tape deserves more attention. Think about it. Those crucial few millimeters of padding between your hands and the handlebar make a world of difference. Your hands are either slipping off the bar or the tape is working so well you don’t even think about it. Forté Grip-Tec was my tape of choice for the last few seasons, but Lizard Skins has recently won my heart over with their DSP bar tape. The DSP tape comes in 3 different thicknesses: 1.8mm to shave off a few grams and have a better road feel, 2.5mm for a balance of cushion and grip, or 3.2mm if you’re looking for that maximum cush without the need for awkward gel pads. I personally run the 2.5mm on my road bike and 3.2mm on my cross/gravel machine. The DSP tape is available in a plethora of colors including solid, dual, and camo.
Commuting around San Francisco continues to be a pretty dicey affair, but the Proviz REFLECT360 CRS Plus vest, or gilets for all my European friends, will brighten things up for you and have you poppin’ when things turn dark. The Reflect 360 has a typical mesh cycling vest look but what makes it stand out are the millions of embedded glass beads that instantly reflect light. It’s so bright, in fact, it’s almost impossible to ignore this giant reflective blob. The tailor-cut fabric is waterproof and retains just enough warmth in combination with the micro-thermal fleece collar for those early morning rides to work.
Honestly Boyd‘s wingnut is just a tire valve with a wingnut-shaped nut instead of a typical round knurled nut but it’s such a ingenious move. I can now easily tighten AND loosen my tubeless valve without tools and without losing my mind. So simple, yet so effective. Get some. You’re welcome.
My 29er needed a new chain ring last year so I thought I’d give an elliptical ring a shot. I was a skeptic of the benefit of oval rings because they sounded way too good to be true. My teammate told me he could feel the increased traction. Okay, you got me there. The one I ended up testing, a 32t from the Minneapolis-based Wolf Tooth Component, features a less ovalized shape and less aggressive timing for a more natural pedal stroke. It’s beautifully CNC machined out of 416 stainless steel where raw billets cost more and take longer to make than the conventional 7075 aluminum counterparts, but they are also said to be five to ten times longer lasting. Besides the material, the ring incorporates Wolf-Tooth’s own Drop-Stop narrow/wide tooth profile to prevent chain drops. It’s been running smoothly on a 1×10 drivetrain with a clutched Shimano XT rear derailleur for a few months now and the chainring feels natural and not awkward at all. While the ovality does become slightly apparent in lower cadences, it’s a forgone sensation after a couple of rides. It did seem to smooth out the torque a bit and I was able to get a bit more traction on the loose stuff. And I have yet to drop my chain.
Fanny packs are all the rage now. Though I like a good locally-made artisanal fanny pack, I miss the load-bearing aspect of a backpack. Luckily, Australia’s Henty Enduro backpack seems to have solved my dilemma. Despite its name moniker, it’s not really a backpack. It’s more like a lumbar pack sewn with a mesh backpack retention system. Henty designed the water reservoir to be placed horizontally instead of the traditional vertical orientation so not only does it keep the center of gravity low for better stability, but I can also reuse my pre-existing CamelBak reservoir.
Made with tough Cordura 500D nylon, the pack is also padded with molded foam for lumbar protection. It has military-inspired MOLLE webbing that gives me plenty of mounting points to evenly and neatly distribute my gear, plus enough pockets to keep my inner OCD satisfied.
I’ve never had a belt that stretches. I mean, don’t you think it’s counter-intuitive to have a stretchy belt? My curiosity got the best of me when I ran across the Abl B19, and I am glad I took a chance on it. The buckle is made with injection-molded carbon fiber with no moving parts and metals meaning you can breeze through airport/stadium screening without taking it off. The 38mm-wide natural elastic band has what Abl calls performance stretch – just the right amount of stretch to make it both extremely comfortable and keeping my pants from falling off at the worst possible moments. It’s so good that it has been my daily driver, save for those days where I need dress a little sharper.
Silca continues its march back to glory following their successful launch back into the frame pump game, a pretty nice collection of tools and now, in celebration of their centennial anniversary, the Indianapolis-based firm is introducing a limited-edition line of bags made in collaboration with Colorado’s Ecologic Designs after noticing a few of their own employees showing up to work with these unconventional but sweet backpacks made from recycled inner-tubes.
The Brooklyn Backpack is a sleek water-resistant commuter pack featuring 972 cubic inches of cargo space with a padded laptop sleeve in addition to the ample pockets and dividers to keep things neat. The Brooklyn backpack is available now for $160.
The $45 Borsa Americano is a wallet-size storage solution to bring along on rides. The Borsa is constructed using inner-tubes and neoprene wetsuits with a weather resistant exterior. Unzip the zinc zipper and you’ll find four internal compartments with the main slot tailored to fit an iPhone 7 Plus with a case, plus ample room for most everything else you’d like to bring along.