We’ve all been there. You’re watching a bike race and you can’t help but think, “What kind of shower head does Peter Sagan use?” Well, wonder no more. We can now definitively say that he likes the really fancy kind, which handily comes from one of his team’s main sponsors, Hansgrohe.
To celebrate this year’s Tour de France, the German company has released a limited edition one, complete with three settings and Sagan’s own logo printed on top. Our very own Jim Merithew has a problem with that fact, because he says he doesn’t want to think of the Slovakian hosing him down while he’s in the shower. Jim has issues though – inadequacy, maybe? – so I ignored him and installed it anyway.
It’s listed as a hand shower, but after some extensive testing (possibly brought on by a need to feel clean after watching the TV ad campaign featuring the three-time World Champion rinsing himself off in slow-motion) I can report that it works equally well in a shower mount, too. Will it make you faster? No. Do you still want one? Admit it, you do.
Newcomers to the cycling world might be a little confused, but when it comes to weird marketing, no one does it better than the professional peloton. To offer just a few examples: Eddy Merckx used to sell cigarettes. Miguel Indurain really likes chainsaws. The late Marco Pantani swapped his bike for a Citroën for a group ride back in ’98, and everyone’s favorite Dutchman Laurens ten Dam loves a barbecue. There was also an odd pillow fight at the Etixx-QuickStep team a few years back to promote a mattress maker. And of course, Marcel Kittel, aided by his caffeinated coiffure, is currently fighting for strong hair. For this writer’s money though, the G.O.A.T has to be Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali cooking a pair of Sidi shoes. Because Italy.
PS: If you have any more ads that I’ve missed, hit me up @ColliOBrien on Twitter.
Julbo is a French brand that’s been in the eyewear game a long time. 130 years, to be exact. They started out when the company’s founder made a pair of specs for some Chamonix crystal hunters, people who climb Mont Blanc in search of precious stones (it really is a thing). They’ve been creating innovative glasses for mountaineers ever since.
Over the years, they’ve also branched out into skiing, trail running, and cycling. Two-time USA Cyclo-cross National Champion Stephen Hyde is just one of the many high-profile athletes they sponsor. Despite all that, I’d never heard of Julbo. And then, looking for something a little different, I got a pair earlier this year, right around the time Jakob Schiller posted a review of his own pair on here.
I went for the Aerospeed model. It came with the company’s own Zebra Light Reactiv lens, which is photochromic, meaning it darkens upon contact with UV rays. If you live somewhere where the sun is always shining, this won’t make much of a difference. But for anyone dealing with variable conditions, or riding in areas that go from light to shade, like a forest, it works a treat. And, sartorial considerations aside, for me, it put a stop to staring out the window trying to decide which shades to wear on any given day. They’re good when it’s hot and sunny. They’re good when it’s grey and wet.
Straight out of the box, I was worried that the bridge was a little big and that it might obstruct vision. It doesn’t. Once they’re on, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them. They’re light, and the combination of ventilation and anti-fog coating means that they don’t steam up, either.
Value for money … relatively speaking
I have a stupidly large collection of glasses. And I love them. But if you’re more practical than that, the photochromic lens alleviates the need to buy different glass for different conditions. Which is great, because the last thing most people want to do after shelling out $190 for something like Rapha’s Flyweight glasses is to reach back into their wallets for another $110 to get an alternate lens.
Speaking of which, I was a big fan of those Rapha shades, right up until the other day when the somewhat flimsy bracket connecting the arm to the lens snapped right off as I was putting them on. Not cool. The Aerospeeds aren’t quite as light as those Flyweights, but they’re close, and they feel a whole lot sturdier.
For $190 with a lens that you won’t have to swap around depending on the conditions, these Julbo Aerospeeds are a great option for anyone who wants something a little out of the ordinary. They might not have the brand recognition of the big players in cycling, but they certainly have historical pedigree and with that photochromic lens, they’re right up to speed in terms of technology, too. Overall, a solid choice.
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.
Exceptional lightness, rock-solid foot support, heat-moldable fit, replaceable hardware and modern styling would be enough for Bont Cycling’s newest road cycling shoe, the Helix. But the Australian company also adds a revolutionary “twist” on the well-established Boa dial, employing a single, foot-encircling cable that hugs like a slipper and holds like a rivet.
While this tester ranked the Helix highly across a litany of traditional performance metrics– not the least of which being a reported 230-gram weight for size 42 – it is the unique, single-dial Boa cable system that marked the shoe’s most memorable feature over many miles on the road and the velodrome. Wrapping from the top of the shoe through the sole beneath, the continuous cable design delivers comfortable and even pressure while facilitating easy and full-foot fit adjustments on the fly.
Announced in March 2018, the Helix shares a similar silhouette to Bont’s previous range-topping racing kicks, the Vaypor S. Yet the cosmetic similarities betray significant differences under the surface, with the Vaypor S leveraging a dual-Boa closure across the top of the foot and the Helix, its foot-encircling, single-cable design.
“The Vaypor S has been our standard for race fit but I still wanted to find a way to improve upon it, particularly for riders with a low volume foot. The cable integration system has allowed us to keep the weight low, while adding even more to the concept of custom fit. Working with Boa and taking the wire completely around the shoe, we are able to ultimately fine-tune the fit and control the volume adjustment,” said Bont CEO and designer, Steven Nemeth, in the March release announcing the Helix.
This quick-to-adjust dial proved very convenient between efforts at Portland Oregon’s Alpenrose Velodrome, where Bont’s track-specific Vaypor T model is a frequent sight among elite riders. The ability to quickly toggle between extra tightness for races and a more relaxed fit for recovery is a great feature, and the foot-enveloping nature of the closure system nicely distributes the pressure of an extra turn of the dial.
Other high-end cycling models might feature a combination of closure systems across the top of the foot, requiring more time and dexterity to ratchet up the fit in the moments before a hard effort. Not so with the Helix, which quickly revealed itself as a track-friendly companion whose design readily drew the curiosity of other riders.
It’s not just trackies that can benefit from the Helix single-Boa system. Imagine quickly ratcheting up for extra stability at the foot of a decisive climb, or spending just a moment to dial back a couple notches when you are holding your spot in a paceline.
Perhaps owing to Bont’s experience with track-specific footwear, however, the Helix felt extremely solid in sprints. With a bathtub-like shape, the monocoque carbon-fiber sole provides excellent stability by cradling the sides of the foot. This is particularly evident for the rear of the shoe, where the visible part of the sole nearly envelopes the entirety of the heel. The sole also properly angles the arch of the foot in line with the knee for better pedal rotation, and features an intricate grid system for careful placement of the cleat.
The shoe’s upper includes a bonded-in, Kevlar-like fabric that prevents stretching and further secures the upward part of the pedal stroke. And within the Helix is a do-it-yourself custom heat molding sole, which further cradles the foot.
All of these features add up to a feeling of serious security when a user is really putting down the hammer. But the Helix doesn’t skimp on ventilation either, with mesh intakes integrated into a protective bumper at the front of the shoe and ample perforation above the toes. On long road rides and sunny days, the Helix was noticeably cooler than this tester’s typical high-end cycling footwear.
This tester also had the opportunity, unfortunately, to test the Helix’s crash worthiness during an early-season pileup at the track. In a crash that burned through the palm of a glove and most of a kit, the Helix emerged scuffed but totally functional. It’s hard to rank long-term durability in just a few months of testing, but my expectation is high for long-term use of the Helix.
Are these the shoes for you? Cycling shoe preferences, like any other piece of apparel, are extremely personal. Bont is very thoughtful in its design approach, using anatomically correct lasts and implementing ideas like a generous toe box. The company also provides an online sizing tool to determine what should work for the buyer. Yet the best test, of course, is one you can do in person.
What isn’t up to opinion, though, are the metrics on this shoe. Light, stiff, stable, user friendly…what more can you ask for?
I love visiting bike companies not just because it is incredibly cool to see how a part or a frame is made at a one man shop or a multinational corporation but because there’s always a ton of interesting tidbits I discover that speaks volumes about the brand.
Located a stone’s throw away from Silicon Valley, Specialized is perhaps the biggest bike manufacturer that I’ve photographed. It also happens to be one of the most photogenic with plenty of easter egg moments.
Perhaps it was influenced by the Valley, but Specialized felt more like a tech company that makes bikes than a bicycle company.
No, the Specialized headquarters don’t have a funky disorganized startup vibe straight out of HBO’s Silicon Valley. Nordoes it have a flashy $303 million, Frank Gehry-designed building like Facebook. What Specialized does have though is a mixture of genuine fun and seriousness which was evident from things like their massive employee bike lounge and their state of the art R&D lab.
Fun like a bicycle company, laser serious like 1 Infinite Loop. Here’s a bit of what I saw during our epic three hour tour.
We started the tour at the museum which showcased the company's storied history.
Founder and Chairman Mike Sinyard talks in front of a replica of his old office. And that's Ned Overend listening in.
Sinyard wasn't happy with the bottles he imported from Europe, so he decided to make his own. Here's a bottle mold.
Specialized went to great lengths to replicate Sinyard's original office with the inclusion of plenty of these vintage cogs.
Sorry Fabrian, I blew out your yellow frame a bit.
1990/92 Specialized/DuPont tri-spoke developed with the aid of the cray supercomputer. Still plenty fast today.
The original bolted-on Horst Link prototype
The 2019 Stumpjumper.
Massive employee lounge/bike parking area
Various paint samples seen at the Industrial Design Center.
Plenty of natural light. Look at all those beautifully painted frames.
Anyone need a quick shot?
3D printed life-size models of the new Stumpjumper.
Design process on the finishes.
An old pair of Specialized shoes just chilling.
Back in the bike parking area was a bike covered with eyeballs.
Bike parking right next to the vending machine.
Not far from the Industrial Design Center is the new R&D lab with various exotic investments such as this CT Scanner capable of spotting imperfections within each layer of carbon fiber. Here's a screen of it scanning the SWAT door on the new Stumpjumper downtube stuffed with oreos.
And then there's this massive DMG Mori DMU 85 5-axis milling machine.
A part being made inside the DMG Mori DMU 85. The massive milling machine allows Specialized to dramatically cut down time needed to prototype items from linkages to items as big as a full size frame.
Working on a Marvel 8 Mark III vertical tilt-frame band saw.
When there's a machine stop there are machine shavings to be photographed.
There's also a full-blown weld shop.
Some 400 pieces of carbon layups are used to fabricate a single front triangle on the Stumpjumper.
Rolling carbon layers onto a tube mold.
Brenton telling us how parts are made at the carbon fiber lab for in-house rapid prototyping.
Another franken bike.
Right around the corner from the machine shop is the test lab where Specialized can quickly test, validate and improve a product. Again, speedy turnaround is key here where the combination of the R&D lab, the carbon fiber and the test lab enables Specialized to go from concept to product validation with minimal downtime.
A shoe last
A specially-made chain stay protector not only protects the frame from chain slap but also significantly dampens the noise.
A BMX with an epically long seatpost
Steel fork for stress testing.
A bunch of secret products chilling behind the red curtain.
Pump track for the employees.
Moving on to the suspension lab, here's a Bent fork stanchion.
Each shock and fork is meticulously tuned for every frame size by the RX suspension team to ensure optimal performance across the board from entry level models to the flagship S-Works.
Welcome to the Specialized wind tunnel, also commonly known as the Win Tunnel.
By building their own wind tunnel, Specialized is able to rapidly test their ideas freely without going through the hassle of a third party. This unique low speed tunnel has also been used to test other products such as Under Armour's speedsuit for speedskating as well as drones.
No, the Stumpjumper didn't spend time in the wind tunnel. But imagine the possibilities!
You can autograph here if you're one of the select athletes who spent time at the Win Tunnel.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I hate getting ready to ride my bike, be it for a Saturday spin or as my commute to work. Where’s my flat kit? Are my water bottles clean? Do I need a rain jacket? And on it goes. Getting out the door takes 20 minutes, if I’m lucky.
I’m telling you all this because one part of my riding prep just got a lot easier thanks to the Julbo Renegade glasses. Instead of finding my roadie bike dork glasses for the weekend ride, then switching back to my non-dork glasses for the commute, or for lunch, I just wear the Renegades everywhere.
They’re amazing on the bike thanks to an ultra-lightweight build, great eye coverage, big rubber grippers on temple and nose, and photochromic lenses that change with the light. I live in the desert of the Southwest where you’ll die without sunnies and the Renegades get just dark enough to take the edge off, then lighten quickly enough to ensure I don’t go rubber-side up from hitting a piece of trash sitting in the shadows of an underpass.
And while the the colored lenses on my pair do scream bike dork just a little, the square frame design is muted enough that I don’t get second looks if I wear them with jeans and a button down shirt.
At $190 they’re a big investment, but totally in line with other cycling glasses and actually a money saver if you, like me, were using two pairs to start.
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.
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.
Flatten chainstays to absorb vertical bumps.
Sculpted carbon forks for ride comfort.
Room for up to 35c tires.
Focus' own Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to enable faster wheel change.
A quarter turn is all that's needed to secure the wheels
The stock Prologo Scratch saddle was comfortable but also heavy
Zipp Course 30 wheels with 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4 season rubbers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.