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.
Mission Workshop has been expanding its lineup of cycling apparel and the latest addition from the San Francisco-based outfitter, the Pavement and Gravel (PNG) Cycling Collection, is more than just some plain black outfit.
As its name suggests, it is designed for mixed-surface cycling and Mission Workshop went to great lengths to find the right fabric for the job, as they have always done for their products. The collection includes a jersey, a bib short, an ultralight jacket, a base layer, and a pair of socks.
Each individual piece of garment varies in its construction. Highlights include the ultralight Japanese weather and water-resistant material on the Interval jacket, incorporation of Dyneema fiber in the bibs for crash resistance, the novel 37.5 fabric that is said to be embedded with microporous particles derived from volcanic sand and activated carbon to keep the wearer’s body core temperature at an ideal 37.5° Celsius and 37.5% humidity for optimal thermoregulation.
It’s a big claim, but German brand Hexlox are convinced that their new modular HexThru thru axle can and will fit any bike. Using a system they call Perfect Fit, it can replace any thru axle on the market. It comes in just three sizes: 12mm and 15mm for the front , 12mm for the rear.
It works like this: The variable length and interchangeable thread adapts to fit any fork/hub combo, with no measurements necessary. This means that stiffness and steering are optimal, because the axle always threads completely into the fork. Hexlox say that their three sizes will work on anything, from road bikes to fat bikes. It will also fit into any trailer or trainer on the market.
There are few standards in modern bike trends, and the tendency seems always to tilt towards more, rather than less, complication. For the home mechanic – hell, for any mechanic – that causes plenty of expensive and time-consuming problems. An incorrect fit can also end up wrecking your bike, or if you’re really unlucky, your face.
We currently have some of their other products here for inspection and the build quality is top notch. So while the HexThru is due to drop in the next couple of months, we’d be confident in saying that these will be no different. And we will definitely pick up a set ASAP for a proper review, so watch this space.
I remember shopping for a handlebar for my mountain bike, a 26-inch “dinosaur” last year and was faced with the dilemma of how long of a bar I would go for. 800mm felt a bit long and 725mm didn’t feel quite right. I ended up getting some 740s but I always wonder what if I got a longer bar? I know, I can always get a long bar and trim it down later, but what if I wanted to go back?
They say it’s the small details that count and Ibis seems to have a solution: a non-destructive, adjustable width carbon handlebar.
The idea is rather simple: a 750mm long carbon handlebar base with 25mm threaded aluminum inserts for each end. Thread ’em in and violà, an 800mm bar! It is now possible to change handlebar widths back and forth for experimenting without buying a new one.
The hollow inserts are cuttable for custom widths as well. If you manage to screwed those up, replacements are conveniently procurable at a mere $15. In addition, the bars are backed by Ibis’ seven-year warranty.
Ibis will offer the adjustable bars in two rise options: a 10mm rise Lo-Fi and a 30mm rise Hi-Fi. Both bars will have 9 degrees of up sweep, 5 degrees of back sweep, and will be compatible with 31.8mm clamps only. The bars are now shipping with select higher-end complete bike builds, as an upgrade for the entry level NX and GX builds, and will be available on its own coming this fall for $169.99.
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.
The Giro Aether MIPS may have the appearance of the much-loved Synthe MIPS, but the similarity ends there. The new flagship road racing lid is definitely not a 2.0 version of its predecessor. It’s got all the goods under the hood.
The Santa Cruz helmet firm has been one of the early adaptors of integrating MIPS (short for Multi-directional Impact Protection System) liner into its helmet lineup. Since then, having MIPS in a helmet is like having Gore-Tex in a rain jacket. Simply put, MIPS got all the buzz (for obviously good reasons of course).
At the heart of the Aether MIPS is the new version of MIPS called MIPS Spherical. First used in Giro’s Avance ski helmet, the new design ditches the plastic slip-plane liner in favor of a two part progressively-layered Nanobead EPS foam liner where the inner foam behaves like the old plastic liner that rotates in the event of a crash.
It’s very much like a helmet on top of a helmet. Not only does the new integration free up some of the precious headroom but it also eliminates the chance of rubbing one’s melon against a hard piece of plastic due to worn pads. MIPS Spherical seamlessly integrates the core function of MIPS to reduce rotational energy. Without the plastic “net,” the Aether is said to be significantly more comfortable and better ventilated.
With that, Giro went further in refining the helmet with a slew of other innovations. The outer EPS liner is covered by a six-piece polycarbonate shell between the deep venting channels where it forces air over the scalp for the maximum cooling effect. For better safety, the Aether is supplemented with a translucent shatter-resistant arch across the top called AURA, short for Aerodynamic Ultimate Reinforcing Arch. Speaking of aerodynamics, Giro’s own wind tunnel testing shows it’s a decent performer in that regard as well.
No helmet is complete without a retention system in the rear. Giro paired the Aether with a Roc Loc 5+ Air featuring independent left/right cradle adjustment, three step height adjustment and of course, the iconic fit dial adjuster.
But wait, there’s more. The Aether, like many of the top of the line helmets these days, has an integrated docking port for sunglasses and anti-microbial padding throughout. As a final touch, the Giro logos on both sides are laser-cut and pressed in to create a 3D look. A medium CE certified Aether MIPS is said to be 250 grams. We will be getting a test unit so stay tuned for our in depth review soon.
The Aether will be available starting August 1st for $325/€299/£260/AU$475 in 3 sizes, with 9 different colors including three limited editions.
Founded in 1972, Italian helmet maker LEM, short for Lavorazioni Elmi Magnani, or roughly translated in English as “Helmet Workshop of Magnani,” is coming stateside with a full line of bike helmets.
Now based in Morgan Hill, California, the helmet maker is set to offer seven models in 50 colors ranging from the $40 Lil’ Champ toddler’s helmet to the $110 flagship Gavia lid for the road (told you it’s a full lineup). Yay for more choices!
All LEM helmets will be available directly to consumers starting mid-July.
There hasn’t been much rain in San Francisco over the past few months and while the first day of summer is only days away, SF weather is as unpredictable like a tweetstorm out of somewhere nowhere. You see, weather in this seven by seven mile city can fluctuate from sunny 70s in Downtown to a depressingly foggy 50s out in the Sunset. And rain? The weather can be so nice that every single hipster would be out lounging in Dolores Park today and then there can be nothing but pouring rain the day after.
Yea, you get my drift. What you need is a dependable, packable waterproof jacket. My latest favorite? The Orion Jacket from the Mission Workshop.
Fittingly designed in San Francisco and made in Portugal, the Orion is monotonous. It doesn’t draw much, if any, attention. It’s black like the original Ford Model T, has minimal branding and some glossy black zippers. That’s about it. Or looks to be it. But no, the Orion is anything but another run of the mill shell that would flock a MUNI train stop on any rainy day.
Its similarity to other black waterproof shell ends there, however. Constructed out of three layers of Toray Entrant fabric, the same Japanese chemical company that supplies carbon fibers to build Pinarellos and Boeing 787s, the Orion is windproof and waterproof against outside elements, yet also permeable to allow moisture from the inside to escape during activities. It’s the jacket one would want to be wearing while dashing to bus stops or riding alongside Karl the Fog. Remember those glossy zippers I mentioned earlier? They are fully taped and waterproof too.
Moving upward, the Orion has a removable hood with a built-in visor. Now, the hood is so exceptionally big that I can fit it over my helmet. I suppose that’s the reason behind its size given its intended usage as a do-it-all activity jacket because no one designs a waterproof jacket for indoor usage. Though large in size, the hood can be adjusted three ways so you won’t look like a total doofus using it without a helmet. The hood is also removable by disconnecting seven non-metallic Pyrm Snap fasteners that have proven to be very secure and easy to use.
Besides having all the major pockets in natural places, the Orion also features a rather useful rear pocket at the lower back. It’s great for stashing gloves, gels, prescriptions from my optometrist, or if you want to go a little extreme, a small first aid kit. Thankfully, there hasn’t been any violent protests around town to cover this year.
That Entrant fabric is pretty amazing, as well. It’s thin, flexible, and not too noisy compared to other shells I’ve owned in the past. The Japanese-made fabric has kept me dry in the rare nasty thunderstorms as well my children’s barrage of juices and milk all throughout this spring. It did get a bit cozy at times, as all waterproof jackets do in some shape or form, but the zippered vents built under each arm were effective and easy to operate one-handedly even when out riding.
The more I wear it, the more I notice the designers’ attention to detail. Its tapered cut fits very nicely, with just the right amount of dovetail to cover my rear while riding. I do wish the angled cuff was a bit stretchier or adjustable to fit my chicken arms better, especially since I am one of those who likes to pull my jacket cuff higher up my arms when I am doing stuff.
It packs down very nicely and weighs like nothing too, which gives me more reason to carry it around town, or when I am travelling. At $445, the Orion is priced toward the higher end of the spectrum amongst notables such as the $419 Noorøna Bitihorn Gore-Tex Shake Dry and the $749 Arc’teryx Alpha SV. Is it worth it? I love mine and it’s a investment I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on.
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.