Giro’s much-lauded Empire SLX has long been a favorite of ours. It’s reasonably light, stiff af, real darn pretty looking (or not). I also gave the even lighter Prolight a try, but as much as we enjoyed it I always deferred to the Empires on most days.
The Empires haven’t really changed much since its 2012 debut. It doesn’t need to, but the Santa Cruz firm is ready for its next flagship: The Imperial.
Giro calls the Imperial “professional-grade” road cycling shoes. Okay that just reminded me of those GMC commercials and thank goodness for not dropping the phrase “mil-spec” into the copy. But I get it, it’s made for them pros, and also the rest of us mere mortals.
At a glance, the biggest difference is the new upper material and the lack of shoelaces. The upper uses what Giro calls Synchwire SLX that features an ultralight monofilament mesh with welded film of strategically-placed Teijin TPU reinforcement and bears much resemblance to the airy upper of the Prolight.
Secondly, the shoelaces are gone and have been replaced by two BOA IP1 dials. I really liked the shoelaces, but I also dreaded those instances in which I needed to stop to readjust my shoes too.
Moving on down, Giro brings back the same adjustable Supernatural footbed and Easton EC90SLX2 cabin plate with replaceable heel pads on stainless steel hardware. At a claimed 215 grams in size 42.5, the $425 Imperial is about 40 grams heavier than the current Empire SLX.
If you are a diehard shoelace fan, the same shoe, minus the dual BOA dials, will also be available as the new $325 Empire SLX. At 185g (sizes 42.5), it is also lighter than the Imperial and only 10 grams heavier than its previous edition. Both the Imperial and the new Empire SLX are available today and stay tuned for our review.
At 198g/pair in size 42 with laces or 300g/pair in size 42 with a Boa dial, these Specialized S-Works EXOS kicks sure don’t weigh a whole lot.
FWIW an Apple iPhone Xs weighs 174g. Let that sink in for a moment.
Only 500 pairs of these $700 über-light EXOS 99 will be made available from Specialized dealers so don’t sit on these. The slightly “heavier” S-Works EXOS with Boa IP-1 dial is available now in sizes 36-49 for $500.
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?
“Inspires frequent compliments from strangers” is not a feature I am used to in hiking footwear. Yet the Vasque Clarion ’88 is a retro-stylish hiking boot that manages just that – all without compromising on the core features that categorize it as serious trail kit.
With an upper of waterproof suede and a playful orange, abrasion-resistant mesh, the Clarion ’88 says “fun” right out of the box. The trail-worthy features of this boot reveal themselves on a closer look, but that first impression is unmistakable. Vasque based the new Clarion ‘88 from a style launched 30 years ago, and it’s a refreshingly lighthearted look amid more serious footwear silhouettes.
On to those features –beefy eyelets guide the laces on this boot, and Vasque includes two color options for laces in the box. A dual-density EVA midsole cushions the ride, with a Vibram “Winkler” outsole providing effective and long-wearing traction. An additional plastic heel cup helps stabilize the foot, a welcome feature for backpacking uneven terrain. The shoe features a foam insole and wicking lining that Vasque says is well-suited for warmer and drier climates, and clocks in at an advertised two pounds, 12 ounces.
Slapping on these boots for an inaugural stroll around town, I was struck with how naturally they went with a pair of jeans. Portland, Oregon is no stranger to hiking boots as daily wear, but the styling of the Clarion was more akin to my preferred old-school sneaker aesthetic. There’s something about the look that feels very approachable, even a tad goofy, in the way of classic and coveted backpacking gear.
Yet this is a not a vintage shoe, and Vasque brings decades of bootmaking experience to the table for the Clarion. They just…fit…exactly right, with no hot spots or high-friction areas. This is really important out on the trail, where my feet felt well cared-for after several day hikes and one overnight backpacking trip. On some unseasonably hot days, the wicking fabric kept the inside nice and dry. Everything about these boots feels long-wearing, and I expect they would survive many years of service.
There’s something refreshing about this boot that is hard to exactly define. The styling is bold, yet very familiar. The features are solid, yet not headline-grabbing. It’s a basic design, yet it feels impossible to improve on.
It’s easy to fall in love with these boots, and I think Vasque has done an excellent job bringing back a classic for more than its looks. Prepare to start reaching for these shoes before your next hike…day at the office…a fancy dinner…your wedding…
I live in earthquake country and sadly I am more prepared to run out the door for a chance at some hero dirt than I am for a big shaker. But then again, maybe it just means I have my priorities straight. Because statistically I feel like I am more likely to get invited to a knobby tire adventure, than I am to be around for the “big one.” This might be foolish thinking and in the end I might regret my decisions, but it is much more fun shopping for new knobbies, than shopping for bottled water and C-rations.
Oddly, I have given this a lot of thought. Since I mostly travel with my road bike I am always trying to find some way to get in a little dirt when I am on the road. This means I have to beg, borrow, plead or rent my way onto a mountain bike. Below is the short list of things I try to pack to make sure I am not only able to ride, but am stoked when the opportunity arises.
Rolling over the top of a blind-pitch, headed to god-only-knows where, the last thing going through my mind is whether-or-not the person who designed my helmet knew what they were doing. Luckily, for me I’m wearing a helmet designed by protection nerd, Brad Waldron, at Kali Protectives. The Interceptor is one of many choices in the newish “enduro” helmet market, designed to give more protection than a weight-weenie cross country helmet, but not the no-holds-bar protection of a downhill helmet. The Interceptor has great coverage, style and plenty of ventilation for all day comfort and just the right amount of “holy shit, about to have an epic yard sale” piece-of-mind for your melon.
Sticky feet make for happy trails and the Five Ten reputation defining Freeride Pro is the perfect go-bag shoe. Pull them on, wear them through the airport, out to dinner and onto the gnar from the trailhead. The Freerider Pro is perfect for rolling all over the mountain and honing your mountain biking skills. If you’re not wearing Five Tens, what are you wearing?
Who knew staying hydrated could be so sexy. So very sexy. Mission Workshop’s Hauser hydration pack falls on the pricier size of packs to strap to your back during your shred and we know form is supposed to follow function, but in this case we wanted a Hauser long before we ever figured out if it was any good. Luckily, for us and for you, this is one quality ripping sack.
To start, let’s get the double bummer out of the way. First, the hydration ready bag, even at over 200 clams, does not come with a hydration bag. It seems a little silly to design a backpack specifically for hydration and to not include a bladder. Fortunately, for me I had one of Osprey’s Reservoirs on the way and can now attest it is one of the nicest and easiest to use bladders on the market. Second, this may not be the best backpack to pack on a scorching hot day. Although, we don’t get many of those here in NorCal, but having this in my go-bag as I prepare for a trip to the Arizona desert has me a little concerned. It just does not vent against the back as well as my Camelbak Mule.
Now on to what we did like about the Hauser. We already mentioned how amazing it looks, but with those good looks comes stellar construction. This pack is built to withstand any major yard sales, comes with an additional tool roll, has plenty of pockets for organization, is waterproof and we chose the larger 14 liter version which sits nicely on the back without hindering mobility. And we would remiss if we didn’t mention these beauties are made right here in the ol’ U.S. of A. and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
We like it. And we think it brings out the color in our eyes.
These Shimano flat pedals are not the lightest or the thinnest pedals on the market, but they are reasonably priced and workhorses ready for anything you can huck off of or pedal up. The other nice part about packing these MX80 pedals instead of clipless is they will, arguably, make you a better rider. They will make you find a better balance on the bike, teach you to weight and un-weight more efficiently and will give you more confidence on a strange whip.
The hardest decision I have when putting my go-bag together is which tool, hell how many tools, do I “need” to feel comfortable on the trail with someone else’s bicycle. The first thing I make sure I have is some duct tape. I usually wrap a nice helping around a hand pump I bury deep in my bag. I then pack a giant multitool, with a chain breaker, into my bag. I love the tools from Lezyne, Park and Crank Bros. Which brings us to the DynaPlug Air and our love of all things DynaPlug and CO2. With this little wonder you just find the puncture, push the repair dealie into the punture and twist on the air. The air plugs the hole and fills your knobbies back to pressure at the same time. Of course, this won’t help if you have a side tear, but that is why I carry a tube, extra C02 and duct tape.
I have been using my North Face duffel bag as my catch-all, stuff it full and go-bag for the last couple of years and I have had no complaints. The only problem being that although the duffel swallows everything I can think to throw into it, but that also means I can spend way too much time, sometimes in a panic, digging around in its gluttonous innards in search of this or that.
Along comes Silca’s new Maratona gear bag with a spacious amount of room and ample organizational opportunities. You have the option of three different carrying straps or make the quick conversion to make it a backpack. The Maratona is designed to meet airline carry-on regulations, so whether you are going around the corner or around the globe, your go-bag is ready to go.
Sure they are better when they are fresh, but even an old Clif Bar is better than no Clif bar at all. Sure you could do a gel or a block or another bar, but I’ve been gnawing on Clif Bars so long they feel almost like comfort food. Ok, maybe not like a big bowl of mac-n-cheese, biscuits and gravy or a piece of pumpkin pie, but these bars have gotten me through plenty of oh-crap-I-am-about-to-bonk situations.
Let there be light. With the days shortening, but the weather still within acceptable riding temperatures, it is the time of dawn and dusk patrols. It is also time to break out the blinky lights and headlamps. The Seca 1800 is an excellent choice for these extend the day jaunts. The quad LED array throws enough light to gobble up the dark and make you feel secure in your line choices on any trail you find yourself pedaling. We ran the Seca on our bars and we ran the Seca 1800 (as in 1800 lumens) on our helmet and didn’t feel like we were asking too much of it in either spot. Add in the fact this chubby, but lightweight light is waterproof and it will get you where you need to go, even if you should have gotten there hours earlier.
The cycling rain jacket has come a long way in the last 5 or so years. Not that long ago rain jackets made for cycling were basically fancy garbage bags with zippers stitched in for good measure. You basically pulled it on and let the sweating begin. And lord forbid the rain eased before the ride ended and you had to remove your jacket… you were soaked through and through. The new generation of rain jackets is not only windproof and waterproof, but also “somewhat” breathable. The Monsoon jacket is cut plenty long, with great length on the elastic sleeves, taped seams and packs down to a surprisingly small footprint. I also love my Mission Workshop’s The Orion jacket, the Castelli Tempesta jacket and the Shower Pass Club Pro.
This is the first version of Kitsbow’s Base Shorts and I keep them at the ready for any last minute rides. They are beautifully constructed, bombproof and super cozy. I’ve put them permanently into my go-bag, knowing full well they are ready for anything the trail can throw at me. If my bits are protected and comfortable, I can always ride in a pair of jorts and a flannel shirt, so as long as I have my Kitsbow base shorts I am good to roll.
And thus theoretically I should have known what I was getting myself into.
The thing is I am a black or gray kind of guy. It was a pretty radical move for me a couple of years ago when I started wearing white cycling shoes. But as sweet looking as a pair of clean white cycling shoes may be, it is a losing battle from the very second you step out the door.
So I decided maybe it’s time to change it up a bit. Hence the fiery red Giro Prolight Techlace.
They’re as red as the Louboutin bottoms that seem to be roaming all over San Francisco these days. I don’t know how comfortable Louboutins are, nor will I ever have the aspiration to give them a shot. What I do know is that after riding with the Prolight Techlaces since July, they are a pretty unique pair of shoes and I now embrace the color red.
Coming off a pair of the Empire SLX which I’ve grown to love, the transition into the flagship Prolight Techlace was an easy one. The shoe shape and the adjustable SuperNatural insoles felt pretty much identical.
What was immediately noticeable was how light they were. My pair touched the scale at 311 grams for a size 43. The weight reduction was noticeable whenever I switched shoes, thanks in part to the new Textreme carbon outsoles with non-adjustable titanium cleat mounts which amount to being 22% lighter than the already feathery Easton EC90SLX2 plate.
The upper material, a monofilament mesh with welded Tejin TPU exoskeleton, is an interesting one. It sounds like a really badass engineering exercise reserve but it’s very breathable – perfect for those hot summer days. You might want to add thicker socks or shoe covers for fall/winter riding though.
Further, the upper is also more pliable than any other cycling shoes that I’ve tried. While I enjoyed the way they hug my feet, I sort of miss having that extra structural support from uppers made with other thicker material. As fragile as those mesh uppers may seem, they held up surprisingly well. The heel cup, while not as rigid as some, was slip-free and comfortable.
And then there is the Techlace closure system. I was skeptical about the hook-and-loop that just seemed a little too thin and slip-prone, but they never budged during the past four months. I love being able to adjust them on the fly and also have the benefit of shoelaces. That said, shoes with traditional laces and Boas will give a tighter, locked down feeling that some prefer.
So is being the lightest and most ventilated worth the $399.99 price tag? I love wearing mine and the fit happened to work out for me. That said, the Prolight Techlaces are definitely not your typical kicks. They felt like specialist racing shoes targeting a specific audience like the Mavic Ultimate Tri for triathlons or the Bont Crono for time trials. As a flagship above the Empire SLX, the Prolight felt a tad like how the iPhone X is nice to have while the iPhone 8 will do just about everything in the same capacity with a lower price tag.
If you’re looking for the absolute lightest and most ventilated shoes for those hot days on the mountain, though, the Prolight Techlaces may just be the kicks for you.
By the way, the Prolight Techlaces are still cheaper than those Louboutins.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any lighter, Giro drops their new Prolight Techlace.
I first saw these prototype 150 gram super shoe at InterBike back in September and they were so freakishly light I honestly thought they were too good to be true. It sounded like a concept car that was more of an engineering exercise, never reaching the public. I was wrong.
At 150 grams per shoe, the new Prolight Techlace is about 25 grams lighter than the already feathery Empire SLX lace ups. And Giro was able to pull it off with some pretty unique engineering features.
Instead of the Easton EC90 SLX2 high-modulus carbon plates found in previous flagship models, the new outsole employs TeXtreme spread tow carbon fiber manufactured by Sweden’s Oxeons that uses flat tape versus the conventional yarn-shaped fibers. With such configuration, less resin is needed without losing any stiffness. The new TeXtreme outsole is said to be 22% lighter.
Moving upward, a custom monofilament fiber mesh is used as its upper. For better structure and increased durability, a thermoplastic polyurethane film by Japanese chemical giant Teijin is then strategically welded over the mesh to act as an exoskeleton, hence the seemingly two-tone looking upper.
For fasteners, the Prolight replaces the sole Boa dial found on the Factors and went with three Techlaces incorporating the comfort of shoelaces with the ease and on-the-fly adjustability of a conventional strap. The tried and trued SuperNatural adjustable insole remains, so it should have a similar fit to existing Giro shoe users.
The Prolight Techlace is available now for $400 in red, white and black. Sure, it’s a lot of dough for a pair of kicks, but these might just fit the bill if you’re looking for the absolute lightest without going full-on custom and they’re still cheaper than a pair of Yeezy Boost 350s.
Welcome to InterBike 2016! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
PURPLE PURPLE MORE PURPLE PLEASE Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Everyone seems to be making their own cycling computers these days but one thing that caught my attention about this Stages Dash computer is its claim of 30-hour battery life. Hey, you can now record your entire 24 hr bike race in one charge! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Shouldn't this fall under the e-motorcycle category? Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Otso Voytek got a good buzz throughout the show. Carbon frame that can take 27.5+ or 29+ AND up to 26 x 4.6” tires on 70 mm rims? Sign me up. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Lightweight's amazingly light Meilenstein has finally gone disc. The Meilenstein C Disc is a thing of beauty but was a bit disappointed to find out the rim width is still 20mm external and 17.8mm internal. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Giro's Factor Techlace sure looked different but it made a lot of sense after checking it out at the booth. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
I have to admit I was drawn to the Orbea booth by the dazzle paint job on this prototype Terra gravel bike. Looks even better in person. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
A 3D-printed Syntace FlatForce stem and a real Syntace FlatForce stem photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Let's admit it, skinsuit is a pain to put on. But Giordana might have an answer with their Quick On zippered suit system. More aero than a bib/jersey combo but easier and more versatile than a traditional skinsuit. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Dario Pergoretti's paint work never ceases to impress and this Responsorium in Ravenna finish is just so fresh. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Just can't get enough of this 3T Exploro. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Slovenia-based Unior tools might not be a household brand here in the States, but they've been around since 1919 and chances are you will see the tools a lot more in the States this coming year. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Australia-based Knog brought their newest Oi bell to Interbike. It's dramatically different than one's image of a bell, but it's an interesting take just like their line of LED blinker lights. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Old-school-esque e-bike, anyone? photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Poor tire, its one and only job is just to be poked. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
We had a glitch on the site in the days after InterBike, so this post is way past due but the unplanned slow down also meant more time to relive this year’s InterBike
While the gallery above is going to highlight all the fun stuff… Below are the observations from the show floor.
– First, the appointments. I got smart this year and did a bunch of appointments in advance to check out offerings from various brands. So my InterBike was more structured, with shots of adrenaline from random drive-bys to booths I didn’t know much about.
– The buzz I kept hearing was “it’s pretty quiet this year.” Well, that was true. The show was smaller than last year’s. I honestly could have just spent a day there. One industry veteran commented on how he/she was checking out people’s badges and noticed there weren’t as many buyers at the show as there used to be, and he/she would be pretty pissed if they got a booth… All about the ROI, guys.
– On the outskirts of the show floor was arguably where the fun was… I got a pitch about a solar USB charger stating “looks like you can use one of those” during day one. At the other end of the hall was also a booth that sells handheld electric massage devices. The massage device booth definitely saw an uptake in traffic on Thursday, possibly due to the walking from day one on the floor + CrossVegas hangover collab.
Really thought the days of scantily-clad booth women were a thing of past. But I was wrong. I mean, okay, sex (allegedly) sells. But wouldn’t money be better spent on making a better product instead of having models promoting shitty products (and offending the female attendees while at it)?
Amount of broken arms/legs: It dawned on me during day two that there were quite a few people in slings/braces. Guess adventure shows must have a few of those around. As one rep put it “they’re getting after it”.
Reception of e-Bike: Last year was all about e-bike bashing and all of a sudden e-bikes are the future this year.
The international aisle. Probably the quieter, less buzz sections but everyone there was pretty cool to talk to (knowing Mandarin and Cantonese definitely helped) and they really deserve more recognition for their efforts of travelling across the globe to Las Vegas to showcase their products, whether it’s the gazillion lights, matte carbon fiber parts, or aluminum parts in all the imaginable anodized colors one can possibly dream of.
Best snack from the show: Vanilla Ice Cream at the Skratch booth made with their new recovery drink mix. Not only was the line 4,000 times shorter than the Starbucks line outside but it was also freaking delicious. Way different than the typical “come by our booth for free booze” hook too.
Last thing I did at the show: tried an e-bike at the rep’s prudent suggestion, only to make it 30 plus feet before a security guard rolled up and warned “no biking on the show floor”. Returned the bike to the booth, walked down the aisle, and was greeted by two bros zipping past on motorized scooters.
I normally associate the end of Le Tour the unofficial end of summer: When I was in school, the end of the Tour meant it was time to start thinking about the mandatory quarter/semester textbook ripoffs, and when I graduated from j-school the end of the tour meant, well, shit there’s no more cycling on TV for a while, perhaps I should work and bike more.
But one consistent summer activity I remember well is gear shopping. It’s a pretty cute idea to have a Tour De France-themed daily sale, to get all your year’s worth of Scratch on stage one and wrap it up with buying the 11-23 Dura-Ace cassette on the final day at Champs-Élysée.
So here are a few products we’ve been pretty smitten with lately. They are the few I won’t regret buying or recommending to my friends. You are my friend too, after all.
Kitsbow Geysers’ Jersey
We’ve been a fan of Kitsbow‘s offering for a while and the Petaluma company’s first foray in road-specific apparel did not disappoint. Clean, understated lines and it’s quickly becoming a favorite go-to for those long, all-day adventures. The Geysers’ are made of a 43% Merino and 57% Polyester blend so they’re slightly thicker and more durable (more on that in a sec) than your average typical spandex jerseys, yet they still breathe unbelievably well.
The fit was spot on. Not too tight and doesn’t like you’re letting it all hang out. Longer sleeves are also a welcomed addition. Kitsbow deserves a big high-five for the Geysers’ well-executed pocket arrangements. Besides the three standard rear pockets, there’s also a chest pocket for small items (perfect for credit cards), a water-resistant pocket in the back (for your phone), and there’s even a pump sleeve inside the center rear pocket, that I use to store sticks of CLIF Bloks.
I was in a pretty good crash while wearing one at the PressCamp MTB ride in Park City. I went over the bar and dented my helmet but the Geysers’ remained in one piece. Not what I expected from wearing a road jersey on a full-on mtb ride. Didn’t rip, didn’t break. I am now a fan. Extra credit: Kitsbow even included a microfiber cloth in the chest pocket for your phone/computer/glasses. It’s all in the details.
King Cage Titanium Water Bottle Cage
I’ve had my run with water bottle cages and the one that I keep going back to is the King titanium cage. It’s a classy-looking, light as a feather (28g, thank you titanium) cage individually made from a one-man shop out of Durango, Colorado that just keeps working. It’s the only cage that I’ve used in which I haven’t lost a bottle with. Unlike carbon fiber cages, the bottle retention is actually adjustable so it’ll hold even that odd-sized bottle from your last grand fondo. If $60 is too steep of a price tag, King also makes an identical, albeit heavier version out of stainless steel that works just as well for $18.
Ahh, muscle and joint sores. With a raging one-year-old at home and touting all the cameras for work (and my bike), my dominant shoulder hasn’t really been the same. I’ve tried plenty of over-the-counter rubs for relief in the past with decent results but TUFRELIEF is my current favorite. It’s non-toxic, non-greasy, made in the U.S. with no banned substances and odorless: I can now rub it all over myself and go to work (or any coffee shop) without smelling like I just got out of a medicinal hotbox.
Giordana EXO compression knicker
You read that right, there’s a knicker for a summer gear product review. I was never much of a knicker type of guy to begin with, but Giordana’s EXO compression knicker was impressive to say the least. Unlike most knickers on the market, the EXO is actually designed for warm weather riding and extends further down the knee for better zone compression by integrating eight (!) different types of fabrics throughout. It’s perfect for those morning rides around San Francisco where it doesn’t get either super warm or super cold. Giordano’s variable thickness Cirro OF chamois is also worth mentioning because it fits just right and is oh so comfortable. Heck, the proprietary chamois even has memory foam and aloe vera infused right into it.
Giro Empire SLX
There’s been plenty of reviews in print and on the ‘net about this shoe because of the shoelaces so I’ll just go straight to the point: Don’t hate until you’ve tried it (I know there are still many of you out there). The Empire SLX is freakishly light and comfortable. The Easton EC90 SLX carbon sole is stiff but Giro still managed to keep it so thin that I never felt disconnected from the pedals as if I was riding with a pair of Jimmy Choo Portia 120s. And the shoelaces? I was skeptical about them initially but I am now a fan.
ITW Tac Link: Not exactly a cycling specific product but all you carabiner-wearing people will rejoice at the fact that you can use this without feeling like you’ve just connected yourself to your keys by the ways of a boat anchor. Just don’t go climbing with this one.
Kuwahara Hirame pump head
Similar to the KCNC pump head Jim reviewed earlier this year but this has been one of those tools I am super happy with. My teammates were a bit confused with this whole solid piece of brass at a team camp a few years back, but honestly I haven’t had one of those pump heads flying off the valve incidents since I got this, and it’ll even clamp on the slipperiest tubular valves with authority like no other
Knog Binder MOB Kid Grid
Let’s just say this little guy’s totally lit. Silicone mounting brackets are simple to use and won’t mar, or slip off your fancy carbon seatpost. Five modes from its grid of 16 (!) LEDs to choose from, low battery indicator and even an integrated USB charging plug. Oh, and it’s waterproof. With all those features, you’d think it would be as big as a phablet but no, this is one well designed and executed taillight.
Jagwire Elite Link shift/brake kit
Okay, it’ll take more time to setup than traditional cable kits but the tradeoff is well worth the extra time and money spent. Concept wise it’s similar to Nokon, Alligator, and Power Cordz Swift by connection small aluminum links over a slick Teflon liner to create a lightweight and compressionless system that’ll play nicely with tight bends. I’ve been running both the brake and shift kit on a Dura Ace 9000 group for about a year and am happy to say it’s so durable, accurate, smooth and crisp that I don’t ever want to go back to regular cables. Pro tip: The housing squeals every once in a while but a small dab of Tri-Flow between the problematic links will take care of it.
I don’t do “gnar.” Perhaps sometimes I do “epic,” but definitely not gnar. Why? I like my teeth. My mom paid a lot of her hard-earned teacher salary on straightening my grill in junior high, so I figure I can at least keep it dialed for her. It seems to me like most “gnar” prospects on a bicycle can involve broken body parts. I will just continue to sit back and watch Red Bull Rampage on the interwebs from my couch, thanks.
So then these slick Freerider ELC shoes from Five-Ten showed up on my doorstep and suddenly I felt inadequate. Not “metal” enough. Not “shred” worthy enough. Can I wear these? I mean, I’m almost 40 and have a lot of Lycra in my closet. But I do have a fat bike with flat pedals and baggy shorts. Time to stoke my inner F*¢K YEAH !! (Sorry Mom)
Mind you, these are no Chucks or Kursks or fixie messenger shoes. These kicks are killer: a durable upper with a protective strap to cover the laces from picking up cholla barbs; a solid, firm but walkable sole that doesn’t flex on the pedals; and a grippy tread that doesn’t slip. Nothing is going to break through this skin. And they are SOO comfy on the inside, like velvet socks for your hooves. Lace ’em up tight and let ‘er rip. Tough on the outside, soft on the inside. Just like any downhiller’s mom would want.
Now while I still don’t plan to dabble in the “gnar,” at least I have some good coverage if my #rideepicshit plans start to get nasty. Use protection. Make every day you return from the trail in one piece a Happy Mothers’ Day. Your feet will thank you, too.