New Toys For A New Year

The Holidays are in the rearview mirror and now all we have to look forward to is several months of short, dark days and questionable weather.

Sounds horrible.

But wait.

We can still partake in daydreaming, adventure planning and some good ol’ retail therapy. So in the spirit of the Holidays past we bring you a list of items to occupy your mind, enliven your spirit and thin your wallet.

As we head into 2019, with all the struggles of the Stock Market, the bicycle industry and the confusion over tire size, pressure and compound, we still remain huge fans of all things bicycle. And while we are still confused about all this indoor “bicycling” everyone seems to be doing, we hope this will lead us all to more adventures and miles outdoors.

So come on in and check out our Lust List.


Giro Aether

Giro not only sweats all the little details in striving to make the safest helmet, but the Santa Cruz, California firm also understands the importance of aesthetics. Case in point, that new Aether MIPS. Gone is the oft pesky (but life-saving) MIPS plastic liner that we have all come to love and loathe, depending on who you’re asking, but the function of MIPS remains. How? Giro’s engineers incorporated it between two EPS shells, thus making it pretty much invisible, with no obstruction and more comfort. Besides the nine different stock colors, you can also make a one-of-a-kind custom Aether on their website. How about that for a fashion statement?


Kali Protectives Strike Knee Armor

Kali’s Strike Knee Armor has you covered when things start to get a little “gnar.” The Strikes stay in place, are comfortable in the riding position and are slim enough to sit nicely under any and all of our fashionable baggie short choices. While we wouldn’t want to do chairlift runs in a pair of these, we found we had a plenty of piece-of-mind riding our local trails and ripping our local drops knowing we had our knees Kali covered.


Outer Shell Adventure Drawcord Handlebar Bag

Just read Outershells “About” page and, if you aren’t completely jaded by the world, you will just want to throw money at them. And I quote, “The ‘Outer Shell Adventure’ embodies our quest towards spiritual harmony with ourselves, nature and other travelers.” I mean. Come on. They make really sweet bags, have a satisfaction guarantee and will basically fix any problem into eternity free of charge. We threw down some coin on their Drawcord Handlebar Bag in hopes it would be the final dollar we would spend on trying to solve our “bikes and cameras…cameras and bikes” problem. And although we loved the construction and detail put into this bag, our hunt for the perfect camera bag continues. The size is perfect for our micro 4:3 camera, mounting is straight ahead and the drawstring allowed seemless access. We just don’t want our camera in a bag. If you are the type of rider who needs a little more room than your jersey pockets allow and you love to stop and take pictures… this might be the perfect bag for you.


Kenda Nevegal 2 Pro

Born in 2003 and rebirthed late last year, the Kenda Nevegal 2 Pro is back with all the classic stylings and modern accoutrements todays trail riders are looking for. The newly designed tire is fast rolling, protected with K-Armor and is surprisingly lightweight for a tire with this much enduro worthy pedigree. If you love to get after it, but also don’t mind pedaling to get there, this tire should be on your shopping list. If you are a full on Enduro contender, you might want to look elsewhere for something just a touch beefier.


Mission Workshop Traverse XC Short

These Mission Workshop Traverse bloomers are nothing short of amazing. They may lack the neon accents and full on bells and whistles of other shorts in this “segment,” but what they lack in bling they make up for in subtle superiority. The material is ripstopping and confidence inspiring, while remaining in the featherweight division. Two smaller side zipper pockets offer just enough storage for the one or two items you want immediate access to. And the “contoured waist belt” pushes this short from good to great while keeping the short right where we like them even in the trickiest of situations. Bravo, Mission Workshop. Bravo. Now we just need to try the All Mountain version of this short.


Fi’zi:k Aliante Open R1

The Fi’zi:k Aliante has been one very successful saddle since its introduction in the early 2000’s. Its TwinFlex shell is supremely comfortable akin to lounging on a hammock, a heaven for those who prefer to stay seated the majority of the time. The overall concept hasn’t changed much through the years, but Fi’zi;k decided to really shake things up a bit last year. The new Aliante Open R1 retains the gorgeous silhouette of the Aliante family, but adds an anatomical cutout in the center to alleviate unwanted pressure on those sensitive soft tissues. A wider, larger version is also available for those who need additional support. If cutouts are not your thing, Fi’zi:k is also offering a version with its full-length Versus relief channel, or you can always go to the tried-and-true regular Aliante, both also available in two widths.


Hexlox – A Great Way To Protect Components

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

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

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

How it works

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


The Rapha Commuter: A New Winter Staple

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

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

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

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

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


Hitting The Gravel With The Pinarello Grevil

Pinarello Grevil gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

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

About the bike

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

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

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

Pinarello Grevil gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

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

Pinarello Grevil gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

The first few rides

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

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

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

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

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

Pinarello Grevil Gravel bike first impression review
Photo: Jered Gruber

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


Ornot: A Low-Key Alternative

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pirelli Brings The Speed With The Zero TT

Pirelli P Zero Velo TT Tire

As someone who has tried dozens of different tires, I’ve yet to find a model that genuinely stands out for performance. In fact, I figured all modern “race” tires were more or less the same. That has changed with the Pirelli P Zero Velo TT.

Easily the best-performing clincher tire I’ve ever used, the Pirelli P Zero Velo TT is an incredibly fast, grippy and lightweight option that inspires great confidence in handling and achieves great speed in acceleration. Devoid of tread and lacking any puncture-resistant band, this 165-gram, 23mm-only tire is a great choice for time trialists, criterium racers, trackies and anyone looking to go as fast as their legs will carry them.

This tester has grown accustomed to the tiny squeaks of his usual clincher tires while traversing the 43-degree banking of Portland Oregon’s Alpenrose Velodrome at slower speeds. That sound, I assume, is the product of tiny slips of the tire. Yet the Velo TT simply planted on the pavement, and this tester could ride much more confidently and with more safety along that familiar surface. The difference was startling.

Pirelli P Zero Velo TT Tire

This isn’t a tire for going slowly, though. The Velo TT spins up with a great ease due to very light weight, and the tire smooths out bumps on high-speed sprints. Foreshadowing this ride quality was the experience of simply installing the tires, which are incredibly supple and mounted easily.

In such a controlled environment, it’s hard to evaluate puncture resistance. Pirelli offers several models with puncture-resistant features, and while the company claims the compound of the Velo TT can resist punctures to a degree, I believe it’s safe to assume other options would be more suited to long rides or races.

Yet across a well-manicured surface during a criterium, time trial or track race, the P Zero Velo TT will provide an undeniable advantage.


The Eagle Has Landed

When I was told a few weeks ago that Goodyear was making a comeback into the bicycle tire business, I had to look up what they meant by “comeback”.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know that Goodyear wasn’t in the bicycle business. With companies like Continental, Michelin and Maxxis knee deep into bike tires, you’d think Goodyear, the third largest tire manufacturer in the world, would be in the game in some shape or form.

Well, they were. As a matter of fact, the Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear produced bicycle tires from the company’s founding in 1898 up until 1976.

So unlike Michael Jordan’s one year “retirement” from the NBA, or Johnny Manziel and Dave Chappelle, it’s been 42 years. But guess who’s back, back again? Goodyear is back. Tell a friend. Thank you Eminem for that sweet quote.

While Goodyear’s new lineup consists of nine tires, I am just going to focus on the road-going Eagle.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

That’s right, the sole road tire in Goodyear’s lineup shares the same name as the company’s better known racing rubbers both previously seen in Formula One and currently seen in NASCAR… and most likely as OEM tires in some cars. In fact, Goodyear even used the same font to label “Eagle” on the sidewall. Okay, I get it. The Eagle has a deep, high-performance heritage.

And Goodyear was kind enough to send us a pair in 25c to play with before the launch.

Our test samples weigh 310 and 311 grams, just a tad over the claimed 300 grams for the 25C tire. Installation was pretty straight forward. I was told the Eagle is mountable with just a floor pump. I managed to get one of the two tires inflated with no sealant while the second tire needed just a tiny bit of sealant and compressed air from my Bontrager TLR Flash Charger. There wasn’t any overnight leakage, either. I did, however, injected some sealant into that one dry tire for extra insurance before my first outing.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

My first ride using the tires was a 70-mile stroll following the weekend’s atmospheric river that caused some minor flooding, downed trees, and well, unpredictable road conditions that left me yearning for those disc brakes on the Focus Paralane I just sent back and I almost went to IKEA instead of riding. Not your ideal day to try out tires for the first time, or was it?

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

So off I went. Rolling down this 10% hill right outside of my house. The Eagle felt supple, dare I say even better than the Zipp Tangente RT25 I just came off of, or the stable Schwalbe Pro One 25s. Goodyear ostensibly didn’t include much info such as the tpi of the casing used, but did mentioned the inclusion of a Nylon-based fabric from bead to bead called R:Armor to combat against cuts on punctures.

Interestingly enough, the Eagle didn’t balloon as much as the other two tires, measuring at 25.55 and 26.17mm on our Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 rim-braked wheels. It’s definitely a welcoming tidbit if you don’t have a lot of tire clearance.

Not long after I navigated out across the slippery Golden Gate Bridge, I ran across this broken Jameson bottle in Sausalito. Last time I rode on wet road with glass, the glass won so I was waiting to hear the tell-tale hiss. Nope. Nothing. The show went on.

The more miles I rode on the Eagle, the more I trusted its capability. The proprietary silca-based Dynamic:Silica4 compound designed with a smooth center for low rolling resistance felt lively and comfortable at 90psi.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

And that “best in class wet grip” Goodyear claims to have is pretty darn good too. The Eagle handled water graciously with its directional sipes on the edges and grooves to channel water from the center. I’d like to see the comparison chart, though.

It’s still too early to comment on the long-term durability of the Eagle but it’s looking pretty promising so far. So stay tuned for our long-term report. The Eagle retails for $70 in four widths: 25, 28, 30, and 32. The 30mm and 32mm will also come with a second version that includes reflective strip all the way around the tire.

www.goodyearbike.com


Focus Paralane: The Two-Wheeled Station Wagon

Focus Paralane eTap

The Paint. That’s right, the paint. It was the paint job on this steed that first caught my attention.

Sure, this is a terrible and vain thing to say, but the paint on this Focus Paralane was truly eye catching at the InterBike media preview night last fall (more on the paint later).

If you’ve never been to one of these preview nights, let me tell you, what gets shown is usually anyone’s guess. You see a whole lot of e-bikes, questionable contraptions, and a tiny bit of sensible stuff.

So there I was hopping between booths and the Paralane was literally chilling next to the Focus booth. The booth guys were pushing a really nice e-bike, but I couldn’t help but be curious about this brightly-colored endurance steed.

To be honest, endurance bikes, much like the American crossovers monstrosity (RIP station wagons), have never really enticed me. I am comfortable on my professionally-fitted road bike, I don’t intend to give that up anytime soon, and I love my station wagon.

Alas, a lot has changed since the introduction of the endurance bike segment and bicycles that fall within this growing category are pretty darn good these days. Standouts such as the Specialized Roubaix, Cannondale Synapse, and Trek Domane are just as fast, if not faster, than their pure-bred racing brethren in such that the line between a road bike and an endurance bike is so blurred, so difficult to ignore, just like the sentiment I got when I was shopping for a SUV recently and inevitably ended up looking at a bunch of crossovers. That’s not counting gravel bikes, either.

Focus Paralane eTap

So I put in a request to review the bike. Then things got busy and I completely forgot about it. So imagine the surprise when the Paralane unexpectedly showed up one morning in early December. Maybe it was a bit of #newbikeday hype or maybe because, unlike Roubaix or the Domanae, I just didn’t know much about this bike.

It has been almost four months since I’ve swung my legs over the Paralane, and even though I love it so much, it was not without its quirks, or shall I say, quirky personality.

The Paralane that Focus sent over came with all the bells and whistles one would expect for $7,999. A lightweight disc-only carbon fiber frame with shaped Comfort Improving Areas (C.I.A), a stiff BB86 bottom bracket for power, 142×12 and 100×10 thru-axles coupled with Focus’ proprietary Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to secure the wheels, with integrated internal cable routings.

e_FocusParalaneSL151

Flatten chainstays to absorb vertical bumps.

e_FocusParalaneSL086

Sculpted carbon forks for ride comfort.

e_FocusParalaneSL230

Room for up to 35c tires.

e_FocusParalaneSL240

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

e_FocusParalaneSL223

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

e_FocusParalaneSL210

The stock Prologo Scratch saddle was comfortable but also heavy

e_FocusParalaneSL188

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

e_FocusParalaneSL200

A clean cockpit with minimal wirings.

Our bike was kitted with a full SRAM RED eTap HRD compact group set, an Easton EC90 Aero handlebar, a Prologo Scratch saddle mounted and a unique-looking 25.4mm BBB CPX Plus carbon seatpost that’s not to be confused with LaVar’s BBB brand.

Focus Paralane eTap

The only item that was not factory spec was the aluminum Zipp 30 Course Clincher (with factory spec 28mm Continental GP 4 Seasons). The bike will come with the Zipp 302 carbon clinchers and for comparison purposes, we spent half of our testing period on our benchmark Stan’s Avion Pro hoops with 25mm Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires. As an added bonus, the Paralane also ships with removal mudguards.

Focus Paralane

One thing that immediately made an impression was the taller headtube along with its generous, relaxed geometry. Much to my lower back’s delight, I get to sit a bit more upright at the expense of losing a few watts for not being aerodynamic, but that’s not what this bike is designed for anyway.

According to Focus, the Paralane was intended for “leisure cyclists who like to spend longer in the saddle and don’t mind unsurfaced roads.” Well, that couldn’t be more true given its generous 50/34 compact crankset and 11-32 cassette. Yet the Paralane is so much more than a leisure machine that labeling it as such almost feels like I am sandbagging. The Paralane is one flippin’ fast steed that you can totally race with.

On the less than perfect NorCal roads, the Paralane is smooth, responsive, and stable at high-speeds. Those Comfort Improving Areas, a.k.a shaped stays, worked as advertised to soak up all the shitty road buzz without the need of any suspension elements. The bike has handling that’s direct and firm like an expertly tuned car worthy of the autobahn. Coupled with the powerful SRAM hydraulic disc brakes, the bike accelerates as well as it can stop on a dime.

Focus Paralance eTap
It’s pretty cramped back there.

I found that the more I cranked up the distance, the more efficient of a bike it was. My body didn’t scream at me (as much) at the end of those 100+ mile rides. Those 28mm Continental GP 4 Season weren’t only long lasting but also grippy in all-weather, performing admirably when I took them off the asphalt for some light gravel rides. SRAM’s eTap has also grown on me tremendously with its car-like paddle shifters as well. I really like its crisp, mistake-free touch and the ergonomics finally feel right.

Focus Paralane eTap

I do wish there was more bar tape than just on the drops though, as the bare wing top, while gorgeous to look at, was slippery to behold. It’s a comfortable and stiff handlebar one would expect from Easton, but I would argue that an endurance bike like this one can be benefitted with more secure and padded hand positions, especially if unsurfaced roads are frequently visited.

Focus Paralane eTap

Coming in at 16.9 lbs with the shipped wheels and 16.19 lbs with Stan’s Avion Pro/ 25c Schwalbe Pro One tubeless, with Shimano Ultegra pedals installed on both setups, the Paralane can obviously be lightened up a notch given Focus claims a painted 54cm frame weighs 907 grams minus the R.A.T thru axle. I truly believe doing so will further unlock the bike’s potential. Regardless of its weight, though, the Paralane has quickly become my favorite go-to bike to log those early season miles regardless of weather. The longer the ride, the more this bike’s personality shines. With the bike’s decidedly worry-free parts and the BB86 bottom bracket that didn’t creak once during the four month test period, my personal SuperSix Evo was starting to feel left out.

And that eyecatching, colorful paint job matches nicely with just about all of my questionably, colorful kit choices.

www.focus-bikes.com


Velocio: An Understated Alternative To The Big Brands

Velocio ES Jacket

The first time I saw Velocio kit in the flesh, it was on Ted King. As clothes hangers go, a pro cyclist could make almost any old rags look good, but his outfit stood out on its own merits. The colours were subtle. There were no funky, clashing technical panels. And you had to squint to read the branding. To me, that’s the holy trinity of bike kit fashion.

When I got my hands on an ES Jacket and some thermal bibs – my own, not Ted’s – it stood out again. Clean lines, a great fit, and subtle reflective touches to offset what is otherwise pure black. The jacket is light, making me doubtful of the claims that it would work with just a base layer down towards freezing. I was wrong.

The “spring” mornings around here have been frosty and I haven’t once felt a chill. It also stands up well to strong winds and rain showers. Really well. So well, I’m smug about it riding past shivering cyclists. I’m not sure how much use I’ll get from the two-way zip, but it’s a nice feature that might as well be there as not, and I’m sure someone will love it for their own reasons.

I’ll bet on the bibshorts being comfortable no matter what you throw at them, even though rides so far have been short – anything more than a couple of hours when it’s 4º or 5º celsius isn’t my thing. The pad is cushy and they’re well-made. The only critique I’d offer is that the raised lettering printed on the lower leg began to show signs of peeling after just one wash. Personally, I’m fine with taking it all off and having the shorts totally plain, but I’d imagine it might upset some people to buy a high-end pair of bibs only to have them looking less than pristine almost immediately.

They are thermal and I’ve been pairing them with leg warmers, but unless you’re riding in real summer heat they’re not so thick that they’d turn you into a sweaty mess. Here in northern Europe, I think they’ll be usable all year on all but the hottest days. The pad is worth another mention, too, because it comes up higher in the front, providing some modesty insurance to anyone who’s ever worried about showing the coffee shop a little too much. The non-riding half of my household thinks this is a major plus.

I have a wardrobe full of every kind of bike kit, from eye-wateringly tacky event jerseys and some gear from my old club that’s so eurotrash it would make Mario Cipollini blush, to the latest and greatest from the all the big brands. And it’s all good. But the thing is, I stick to the staples. Choice cuts from Giordana, Sportful, and Castelli. Everything else comes and goes, but I always revert back to the most reliable rotation. This Velocio kit is now part of that list.

SaveSave


Essential Adventure Gear For Spring

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 ATAC XC 6 Pedals $150

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).


Silca Seat Roll Premio

Silca Seat Roll Premio $48

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.


CamelBak Chute Vacuum Stainless Insulated Bottle
It’s been scratched, dented and abused for about a year but still zero leaks and works like a champ

CamelBak Chute Vacuum Stainless Insulated Bottle $38

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.


Lizard Skins DSP Bar tape

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape $42-46

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.


Proviz REFLECT360 CRS Plus Vest

Proviz REFLECT360 CRS Plus Vest $125

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.


Boyd Wingnut tubeless valves

Boyd Wingnut Tubeless Valves $14-25

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.


Wolf Tooth Stainless PowerTrac Elliptical chainring

Wolf Tooth Stainless PowerTrac Elliptical Chainring $99.95

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.


Henty Enduro Backpack

Henty Enduro Backpack $110

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.


Abl B19 Belt

Abl B19 Belt $39.95

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.