It’s been almost 40 years since I penned a “Going Light” piece for Bicycling Magazine; coining the phrase ‘credit card’ touring. No matter what term you use – ‘fast touring’, ultralight bikepacking (ULB), or credit card touring – the concept is the same: minimize the weight and bulky gear (in other words, no sleeping bag or tent). Hotels, friend’s homes, or even ‘Warm Showers’ stays replace campground accommodations. Technology is beginning to catch up with this concept in a big way as numerous companies are now offering a wide selection of gear for this two-wheel travel alternative.
I’ve enjoyed ‘traditional’ touring for years (I was a partner of Burley Design Cooperative for 15 years and used their cargo trailer for many international backcountry tours), but there are times when it can be more enjoyable to travel light and explore more of the area you’re visiting.
This past December I flew into Tucson, Arizona to test and review some ultralight touring gear I had recently covered at the Las Vegas Interbike show. More on that gear a bit later. Since some of the towns in southwest Arizona we would be visiting (Tombstone, Sierra Vista, Bisbee, and Nogales) approach 5 thousand feet in elevation, and being winter, we had to pack more gear than what I normally would take for an equivalent week-long summer domestic trip.
I’ve done substantial week long trips with a small size front Arkel handlebar bag ($170 with waterproof cover) and a small rear seat post bag (the $95 “Fullback” by KoKi bags is carbon fiber friendly, and can be easily detached from the bike). For our Arizona trip we needed more capacity for cold weather gear and, potentially, rain.
We opted to test several new products that were introduced at this year’s Vegas Interbike show that met our parameters for carrying extra gear while still qualifying as going light. We matched Arkel’s Dry-Lites pannier bags ($89.95), which are the world’s lightest waterproof bags in the world at 18 oz., to a Restrap Front Bar Bag (around $100 for the ‘holder’ and dry bag handlebar combination). One of the significant selling points of the Restrap bike bags, a UK business new to the U.S. market, is no hardware or tools are needed for attachment to your bike frame or handlebars.
The only downside to the Arkel bags for this trip was the need for a rear rack instead of a smaller and more simple seatpost arrangement – but lightweight aluminum or titanium racks make this a minor issue.
Our trip to Arizona was a good example of how you can tour light on your next vacation (whether flying into a destination or taking off from your front doorstep). I promise that you’ll enjoy the freedom of cycling on your own schedule and not a tour company’s agenda – saving enough in the process to easily cover the cost of the equipment featured here.
Tucson, in particular, lends itself to the credit card travel experience while also offering a comfortable escape from winter. Since the area is popular destination for winter cycling training camps in January and February, you might even see a few pro teams on the roads. I flew into the international airport on the outskirts of Tucson and took the free shuttle to the hotel (which most hotels near the airport offer).
I unpacked my travel S&S Co-Motion Nor’Wester, and put everything together that night. Most hotels near the airport are happy to store a couple pieces of empty luggage for your return flight (in our case, a week later). The airport location – some 10 miles from downtown – made it easy to start our tour without having to navigate the typical big-city commuter traffic, and head directly out into the desert on quiet secondary roads.
We carried two sets of riding kits so we could either hand-wash one set every night, or use the hotel’s washer/dryer every other night. We tried to make our gear do double-duty where possible. Our rain pants and jacket could be used over our lightweight, compact ‘hiking’ shorts and shirt for dinner or exploring town.
You’ll probably find your own unique variations for keeping the weight and bulk down without sacrificing the fun factor. It’s not difficult to find mini travel sizes of most necessities like a toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens solution (make sure to carry a spare pair!), etc. at most markets.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Five Ten’s new Kestrel shoes ($180) with BOA closures – designed primarily for downhill mountain biking – made incredibly comfortable and durable SPD touring shoes. I switched out their liners with currexSole’s bike-specific high-tech insoles ($50), another Vegas find. Subtle modifications like this – especially for a critical item like shoes you’re going to spending all day riding and walking in – can make a huge difference by the end of a week’s trip.
Other essential gear that we tested – and now will become a part of our ‘must have’ packing list – was the Cycliq Fly6 rear flashing tailight ($169) that also incorporates a camera. It uses an ‘endless loop’ so all you have to do is recharge it every night or two, and forget about it.
We used a various selection of NiteIze straps and cords for keeping all our gear attached and organized, as well as their new innovative ‘swipe-to-shine’ (STS) bike lights (helmet and handlebar options, $35 each). Even with gloves, it’s easy to swipe the top of the light for various settings. NiteIze has a huge selection of innovative accessories for the touring cyclist that we couldn’t begin to explore here; check out their website.
Ironically, during our week’s stay in Arizona, we didn’t need a lot of the extra clothing gear we had packed. Instead, we enjoyed near record-setting high temperatures in the high 70s, fantastic desert scenery – including a side trip to the Town that Wouldn’t Die (Tombstone); and nothing but blue skies. If only all my tours had such problems.
From our biz website (“About Us” page):
Rob’s involvement in the cycling community spans more than four decades, ranging from the somewhat traditional (a partner in Burley Design Cooperative for 15 years) to the extreme (four-time Race Across America competitor). He also has made regular editorial contributions to various cycling publications over the years. He holds a number of long-distance records with tandem partner Pete Penseyres, and has earned a few National Championship jerseys along the way. Rob now makes his home in Southern California.
Sin City. Entertainment Capital of the World. City of Lights. What Happens Here, Stays Here. For well over a decade, Las Vegas has played host to North America’s largest bicycle tradeshow, and, thankfully, not everything that happens there stays there. After moving to the new Mandalay Bay venue on the Strip several years, the show finally appears to have smoothed out the bumps that are a given with a major move and transition like this.
As has been the case the past several years, many major industry players like Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale had minimal or no floor presence – opting for dealer shows on their own home turf where they can better control costs and all aspects of their upcoming new year product introductions. But that didn’t stop 900 companies representing 1,400 brands from purchasing booth space this year – including approximately 250 new exhibitors. This year was the show’s largest footprint ever, according to Pat House, Interbike’s vice president.
About 4% more independent bike shops (IBDs) were represented at the show this year than last year but most tended to bring fewer staff personnel to save costs, resulting in a slight decline in actual attendance. The Outdoor Show, aka “Dirt Demo”, held Monday and Tuesday at Boulder City outside Las Vegas had flat attendance. The Health+Fitness Business Expo, held in conjunction with Interbike in years past, was eliminated this year.
Special non-product highlights for the week-long industry gathering included the second annual awards gala (37 awards were handed out) where the cast of ‘Breaking Away’ (Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, and Jackie Haley) made a surprise reunion. They all were given custom ‘Cutters’ jerseys, and Masi created a replica of the bike bike featured in the 1979 film.
Colorado’s governor John Hickenlooper was the keynote speaker at the industry breakfast on the opening day of the show Wednesday, where the action moved indoors for the final three days of the five day show. He challenged other states to follow the ‘cycling friendly’ practices of Colorado he has helped to implement.
SRAM, with their new wireless drivetrain/shifting system, was the buzz of the show; with the emerging market category of electric bikes (of all varieties and price points) capturing a big slice of the remaining media pie coverage.
With SRAM’s eTap, reliable wireless shifting is now a reality. Of course, the ‘wow’ factor of eTap is the lack of cables which means easier drive-train set-up. No more having to thread a traditional or electronic cable through your high-zoot carbon fiber frame, a tedious process even for the best of bike mechanics. I spotted more than a few ‘wrenches’ in the Sram booth with big smiles on their faces as they played with the new technology. Among the more intelligent features of the system is being able to switch out the identical front/rear derailleur batteries if you forget to charge one of them (the rear is going to use far more power than the front). According to reps, you can get up to 1,000 kilometers of riding per charge.
The system communicates using a proprietary wireless protocol, termed Airea, that SRAM assured the press will accept no other signal (once paired). Wired shifter ‘blip’ buttons can be positioned in various locations on the handlebars, with the wires running to the shifters. The blip wires come in different lengths: shorter for sprinters (handlebar drop position) to longer wires for the triathlon crowd with their extended aero positions.
Sram did find an unique way to demonstrate the the dependability of eTap under harsh conditons: derailleurs were imersed in an acquarium, and dealers could test the wireless shifting action with levers positioned outside the tank. To keep the whole wireless project under wraps while testing on the pro circuit the past several years, I was told that they actually assembled the rider’s bikes with ‘fake’ cable housing to keep prying eyes away.
Swiftwick’s elegant logo is hard to miss on most of my group rides – whether here in Southern California or in my travels across the country. The percentage of riders sporting their line of compression socks is impressive. Last year, I was a bit skeptical of the whole ‘compression’ sock category, and its touted advantages. But after a year’s worth of use – including feedback from our office staff – my perspective has changed.
Swiftwick, as they say, got it right with a piece of clothing that used to be a second thought with most cyclists. Pro riders and weekend warriors alike have become more sophisticated in their gear and clothing choices; looking for any angle to improve comfort and performance in their riding.
But it’s more than just ‘managed compression’ (as the company terms it); Swiftwick offers ‘linked toe’ technology in their sock line with moisture wicking fabrics that eliminate negative space. What that means in real-life applications, is a more comfortable sock that helps to prevent blisters (probably why their socks are also a favorite among runners). The design prevents bunching and hot spots by supporting all 3 arches in the foot.
Anti-odor fabrics might seem like a minor feature when purchasing a pair of socks but if you ever wore some of the first generation polypropylene undershirts (the ones that retained a nasty odor no matter how many times you washed them), you’ll appreciate Swiftwick’s antimicrobial and no dye material.
Swiftwick president Chuck Smith (who became president of the company in 2014) commented that their company creates repeat customers with “performance, and that’s where our Swiftwick team focuses the majority of our efforts”. Swiftwick offers socks in a full range of heights to meet any rider’s (or runner’s) needs; all the way from anklet styles (Zero) to knee-high designs (Twelve). This year, Swiftwick’s focus was 100% on their dealer base, and athletic offerings.
The ASPIRE line is still their most popular cycling model ($12.99-$35.99) with 11 color options; the PERFORMANCE line ($9.99-$24.99) their original compression sock, is also a cycling favorite offering great value. The Pursuit line (with Merino wool), our office staff favorite, has been improved this year: 50% thinner while still maintaining the famous durability and comfort standards. It’s the world’s first 200 needle compression sock made from all-natural Merino wool sourced from farmers in the U.S. ($15.99-$34.99). Their entire product line is American-made.
Interbike had many companies showcasing their wares in the emerging category of bikepacking. A sub-category even emerged within the bikepacking category this year: “UL”, as in ultra-lightweight. Almost four decades ago, I penned a “Going Light” piece for Bicycling Magazine; coining the term ‘credit card’ touring. Now product design and equipment is finally starting to catch up with the concept.
Enter the Dry-Lite pannier bags by Arkel (MSRP $89.95), a real game changer in the UL segment; laying claim to being the world’s lightest waterproof pannier bags at 18 ounces (454 gr), with a volume of 1708 cubic inches (28 litres).
We couldn’t disagree with Arkel’s promotional materials that claim these pannier bags to be the “ultimate waterproof light & fast touring saddle bags”. The bags use a waterproof material with a roll-top design, and ultralight horizontal stays that help to keep the bags clearof the wheel. Finishing details include reflectors on all sides, a built-in handle, and ample heel clearance with a slanted design on the bottom – the whole compact package comes in at 15”x4”x2”.
The bags do come with a disclaimer, “Arkel’s Dry-Lites are built for lightness and performance. The lifetime warranty still applies, but wear and tear and resistance to impact is less than with Arkel’s heavy-grade products”. So how do they work in real-life applications?
We would get that opportunity with a weeklong ‘credit card’ tour in Arizona where the bags got plenty of heavy (and abusive) use. Attachment to the rear rack, using a relatively easy system of wide Velcro straps was straightforward and secure (there’s even a video to watch on their website if you have problems with installation).
So how did the bags hold up on that trip, and would we recommend these bags for an ‘around-the-world’ trip? Probably not – mostly because of capacity issues – not quality concerns. But that’s not what the Dry-Lites were designed for. If you’re looking to travel light for shorter adventures – whether it be bikepacking on hard-pack dirt roads or fast ‘credit card’ touring on the pavement, these would be our first choice.
RESTRAP “Nothing is off limits”
Another company showing gear touting the benefits and freedom of traveling light was UK’s Restrap. Restrap was using Interbike as their American launch of a new rackless, CarryEverything line of bike bags.
The various bags in their rackless touring system attach to any bike, without mounts, screws, or tools. Nice. Nathan Hughes, founder and director of Restrap, says that “bikepacking is the ultimate form of freedom. With the CarryEverything range, nothing is off limits”. Both the front handlebar bag and rear saddle bag utilize 8-13 liter dry bags – assuring a waterproof journey for your gear. All their 2015-16 bags, 18 months in the making, are 100% handmade in Yorkshire using 1000D military-grade cordura and nylon webbing. They utilize secure magnetic buckle connections in much of their gear that are unique and easy to connect (or disconnect) – even with gloves.
The saddle bag ($139.99) provides a hard case “receiving” shell for an 8-13L dry bag; and comes in three sizes that should fit almost any bike. The front bag ($116.99) also holds an 8-13L dry bag but on smaller bikes/handlebars you’ll probably need to go with a smaller size dry bag to accommodate the width of your handlebars – this was my experience while testing the front bag on the week-long Arizona ‘credit card’ tour mentioned earlier.
The handlebar bag also comes with a small pouch that sits on top, using a cool magnetic quick release mechanism. My only ‘complaint’ testing the front bag was that it would be nice to have this pouch be larger in size for versatility. I imagine if demand is strong enough, it would be easy to produce this pouch in several sizes, using the same magnetic connectors.
On smaller frames (like my 51cm Co-Motion) their fully loaded front handlebar bag sits only a few inches above the front tire but there never was a problem with the bag making contact with the tire – even over rough pavement or dirt. After a week-long test of the front handlebar bag, I have a feeling that the design and quality of workmanship in Restrap’s bags will quickly make them a very popular choice with the adventure or ‘fast touring’ crowd here in the U.S.
Since 2010 Restrap has been making some of the world’s toughest pedal straps, bags, and accessories. The manufacturing team is based in a workshop on the outskirts of Leeds (Yorkshire) where they design, cut, sew, develop, test and finish all their products – entirely by hand. They try to source local materials (and preferably recycled when possible) and, as Nathan told me, “offer a life-time guarantee against manufacturing fault”.
THE NUTTER AND BREAKER MULTI-TOOLS
Sharing the same booth as Restrap bags was another UK biz with their own European take on the American multi-tool. Their version(s) aren’t flimsy credit-card size models designed for rare emergency use. They offer shop quality tools that also just happen to travel well. The Nutter ($59.99) and Breaker ($65) take a decidedly different approach when it comes to travel multi-tools. Both are old-school craftsmanship that include a custom leather ‘holster’ with a recycled inner tube pouch for various bit parts (3,4,5,6, and 8 mm hex tool bits; screw driver, torque key). Each tool bit fits cleanly into a magnetic slot on the tool ‘base’. Very cool.
The Nuttter has a 15mm box head spanner, spoke key, tire iron – even the mandatory bottle opener. The Breaker has a chain breaker instead of the box head spanner, using a tool grade stainless steel pin. The Breaker uses the tool bit extender as a handle, giving you the “functionality of a workshop chain breaker in a multi-tool” according to managing director Mark Windsor. We’re looking forward to reviewing and testing the Breaker when it becomes available later in 2016 (but if it’s any indication of the quality, the Nutter – currently available – has performed as well as any of our heavy-duty tools in the office workshop). The Breaker is a Kick Starter Staff Pick award winner.
For weight weenies (you know who you are), neither tool is going to break any weight barriers coming in at 3.9 oz, and approximately 8oz with the custom leather holster. But in terms of style, workmanship and coolness factor, both definitely set new standards to the current crop of multi-tools. You’re going to get a second look from your cycling buddies when you pull the Nutter out for your next roadside repair – if my experience is any indication.
Since 1919 Lazer, as their brochure says, has been pushing the “boundaries of design and technology”. This year they were offering several unique road and mountain bike helmet models but the Z-1, their top-end road helmet ($269, or $30 more with MIPS – more on that feature later), probably best typifies the innovation the company is famous for. Much of the technology seen in the Z-1 trickles down through the line.
The first thing you’ll notice when trying on the Z-1 is the fit – or, more specifically, their RollSys Fit System (“ARS” which is their advanced version for 2016). ARS is a fully integrated mechanism which surrounds the head completely. Lazer’s National Sales Manager, Peter Kukula, told me that “we developed the most advanced fit system … to optimize comfort and fit”. And unlike other helmet designs, the Z-1 utilizes a roller ‘thumb wheel’ on top of the helmet that permits an accurate and progressive peripheral sizing adjustment; helping to eliminate pressure points. After several hundred miles of testing I can honestly say that it works as promised.
But, for me, the really cool features of the helmet are the options available. MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is available with this model, and can be even found on their less-expensive offerings. If you’re not aware of MIPS – last year’s buzz word in the world of helmet companies – it adds another layer of protection in the event of a crash by reducing rotational acceleration of the head (which can lead to the most severe type of brain injuries).
For those that have had issues with traditional heart rate monitor straps, Lazer offers an optional LifeBeam upgrade kit ($130) which uses an optical forehead sensor instead of the traditional chest strap. For increased visibility, Lazer has an optional custom flashing-light accessory ($20) that integrates nicely into the back of the helmet. If you want a more aero helmet (or maybe just a bit more weatherproofing when the weather turns nasty) there is a $20 Aeroshell that can be snapped on when desired.
But our staff’s favorite accessory of all was the Magneto sunglasses ($100-$120), which use small magnet ‘buttons’ on the helmet straps that match up to small magnets on the inside of the sunglass arm piece ‘nubs’ – eliminating the rest of the arm pieces that can cause pressure points. You can even ‘dock’ the glasses on the rear of the helmet with small matching magnetic tabs that can be installed post-purchase (they come standard with the helmet).
And for the post-ride coffee break, Lazer has one of my personal favorite accessories: the Cappuccino Lock ($19.99), that uses your helmet strap to ‘lock’ the bike. You probably could cut this ‘lock’ with a pair of nail clippers but it’s enough to keep someone from rolling away with your valuable machine in the few seconds it takes to get your cup of Joe. Unfortunately, I know from first-hand experience how quickly that can happen!
When it comes to riding comfort, most smart riders make sure to take care of the three main contact points with their bike (hands, feet, and posterior). And while cyclists can spend hundreds of dollars for a good pair of road or mountain bike shoes to enhance performance and comfort, they rarely give a second thought to the insoles that can be critical in maximizing this investment. This can be a big mistake that results in (best case scenario) ‘hot feet’ or (at the other end of the spectrum) wasted energy and knee problems.
Founded in 1999, Germany’s Currex GmbH, was one of the first companies to design and study insoles from the ‘sport’ side of development, not taking the traditional approach of analysis used by the podiatry (medical) industry. Based in Hamburg, Germany their Sports Biomechanics Lab for Motion Analysis & Shoe Finding Technology (yes, a mouthful) is run by sports scientists and biomechanical engineers. In other words, their products are made for a wide range of athletic endeavors, not just cycling. Of course, their main focus at Interbike was the cycling segment (racers, commuters, triathletes, weekend warriors, and bikepackers). The BIKEPRO line is designed to reduce negative movement that wastes energy while stabilizing the foot.
Lutz Klein, CEO and MD of currexSole Americas, explained in detail (with supporting documentation from several major bike studies undertaken over the past decade) how their insoles have “scientifically proven to improve knee pattern, increase pedal force, and, in the process, enhance recovery time (as in comfort)”.
They use what they term Dynamic Arch Technology (DAT) in three different profiles. Made of nylon, DAT is strong, lightweight and long lasting; with zero drop Each nylon arch is different in stiffness, height, position and size – in other words not a ‘one size fits all’ approach; each pair of insoles is designed for different weight athletes and foot shapes. A deep heel cup ensures the stability of the foot throughout the pedal stroke while hot spots are minimized or eliminated with a ‘Force Transmission Pad’ that protects the sensitive metatarsal area.
For professional bike fitters they also offer a range of add-on wedges for an even more enhanced shoe fit. With different levels of arch support and sizing choices, 18 variations are available for a truly custom fit at a very reasonable price for the sophisticated technology behind their insoles ($49.95).
After several months of testing among our staff, the consensus was that the currexSole insoles are a notch above the current range of offerings (including several of us that had been using the Specialized S-Works Body Geometry insoles found in their high-end road and mountain bike models).
An experienced IBD can assist with proper shoe fit based on your riding style and goals. If they stock currexSole they’ll also have the right tools – including the unique patented platform that you stand on that gives you the correct sizing (S, M, or L) as well as proper arch support needed (low, medium, and high). The second step of the fitting process combines a human touch with a visual foot / leg axis test done by your fitter. After getting the correct insoles in your shoes, we’re willing to bet (this is Vegas after all) you’ll notice big changes on your next ride with enhanced comfort and performance.
Classic. Solid Craftsmanship. “Old School”. How else could you describe frame bags, saddle bags and handlebar bags using waxed cotton, brass and leather that takes you back to another era. These are the kinds of products you might find at the annual Eroica California (Paso Robles, California); based on Europe’s L’Eroica vintage bike event outside of Siena, Italy for the past 18 years. Tanner Goods is one of those unique businesses that by all rights shouldn’t still be around – after all, few folks these days want to pay for quality craftsmanship and top-grade materials. Now based out of Portland, Oregon (with flagship stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco) their history goes back to the 50’s where L.P. Streifel started a leather goods company which is still in operation today.
I did a double-take when I walked through the “Northwest” booth at Interbike (where various bike companies were showcasing the best of the Northwest). I’m used to seeing many of the major bike companies from the Northwest displaying their accessories at Interbike, like Showers Pass. But Tanner Goods’ small display of saddle bags, almost hidden in the corner of the large booth, stood out among all the other high-tech goodies. And if you’re into style as well function (and, really, what cyclist isn’t?), check out their leather credit card / wallet offerings that are compact enough to easily fit in a rear jersey pocket while not impacting space for other essentials.
They make a full range of outstanding non-cycling leather gear as well. Over the past 8 years, their range of products has grown from a belt, two wallets, and a bag. One might think the cycling products they turn out aren’t a huge part of their business – and you’d be right. But get your hands on one of their bags and you know you’ve got something worth holding onto … probably why they made this their marketing tag line. The Porter front handlebar bag ($150), saddle bags ($110), and frame bags ($220) don’t come cheap but quality rarely does. These days, their leather goods are definitely a better long-term investment than the stock market.
If there was one product that I would hope that every cyclist would go out and purchase immediately after reading this year’s coverage of Interbike, it would be the Cycliq Fly6. Part of that reason is selfish – I’ll explain shortly.
Cycliq updated their award-winning rear taillight and camera combination for 2016 with several major improvements. In way of background, the groundbreaking Fly6 began as a Kickstarter project just over a year ago.
At $169 it’s not the cheapest rear tail light you can purchase at your local IBD. But I promise that it’s going to be one of the best bike accessory purchases you’ll ever make.
While the first iteration of the Fly6 was a bit on the bulky side and provided only 15 lumens of output, it now has gone on a diet while doubling the lumen output to 30 for 2016. Unless you take a close look at the Fly6, it looks like any other popular, high-end rear tail light you might see out on the road these days. But this light offers the significant bonus of a rear camera. There are several flashing modes (including a ‘courtesy’ button to diminish the light when riding in a group). The Fly6 even remembers your preferred settings between uses. You can add a larger GB card if desired but for most riders that probably won’t be necessary as the camera uses an ‘endless loop’ that will record over the oldest video first.
If you crash (or the bike is tilted more than 30 degrees for 5 seconds) the camera enters what the company calls ‘incident capture mode’; 3 short beeps give you a heads up when entering this mode. The camera then continues to record for one hour before shutting off – stopping the video looping and saving the footage.
The Fly6 actually delivers on the promised 6-plus hours of use per charge. Everything comes complete with the Fly6: USB cables, various seat post mounts, spacers, etc. It’ll take you all of 5 minutes to get the Fly6 up and running. No, it’s not the top-end video quality of, say, a Go Pro but that was never the product’s intent. But, as a side note, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the video when I played segments back after my first few rides. The Fly6 compresses footage into an AVI format, using 10 minute segment clips.
Even hard rain on a recent group ride failed to shut down the light (the more technical description by the company is that the Fly6 has been treated with a HZo nano coating that makes the unit waterproof – which also means that it’s also resistant to dust-dirt contamination).
I’ve owned several professional-level ‘sports’ video cameras over the years – mostly as proactive safety tool while cycling. After my first use of the Fly6, I quickly came to appreciate its ease of operation, and lack of hassles with daily use. No longer do I have to put fresh batteries in or re-format/clear the memory card after every ride. Recharge (via USB cable that’s included) every day or two, and you’re set to go.
So why do I want everyone to go out and buy a Fly6? Over the past 45 years of riding (including 4 RAAMs, ultra events, daily commuting, touring, and ‘conventional’ road racing) there never had been a need to discuss using sports cameras as a ‘defensive’ tool. But times have changed (think cell phones, texting, and other distracted driver behaviors – to name just a few of the current road risks).
If more drivers realize that cyclists are becoming proactive by using devices like bike cameras, we might start to see a change in driver behavior. Having put in close to 850,000 miles in 45 years of riding (yes, I own a car but it rarely gets used), I would like to try and hit a million miles before my last ride. That’s the selfish part of wanting as many riders as possible using a camera system like this; helping to make the roads a bit safer for all of us.
I do have two very minor issues with the Fly6. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Fly6 with even more lumen output – but the current version is more than enough to be seen day or night. And to their credit, they’ve already doubled the output from last year’s edition.
The second issue is the lack of another attachment option when a seat post attachment doesn’t work (or there is camera interference with a rear bag). But CEO Andrew Hagen explains, “There is no way to attach Fly6 to a saddle bag that would produce decent footage … the ONLY reason we attach it to the seat post is because of stable footage”. Makes sense. After all, we’re talking about a sophisticated piece of electronics not just a standard flashing rear light. Apparently, according to Andrew, I’m not the first person to suggest alternative mounting options.
Cycliq is working on a front light system also incorporating a camera (Fly12) that will be available in Spring of 2016; they’re currently taking pre-orders ($349). Save the money you might have used to purchase my ‘worst product of the show’ (see the Garmin review elsewhere), and get the Fly6 instead.
For some reason, a majority of the products we found interesting and worth exploring further from this year’s Vegas Interbike show came from the UK or Australia. In 1991 Rex and Marilyn Trimnell got started with X-Lite UK (world’s first twin crown bicycle fork).
Shortly afterward, Muc-Off was born after their creation of a homemade pink cleaner used to clean bike gear. Fast-forward to 2015 and Muc-Off is now the go-to brand for top riders and racers from the likes of Team Sky. Along the way, their product line-up has expanded dramatically beyond the original pink cleaner.
Several of their products are more sophisticated versions of homemade versions some of us have developed at the office: for example, the Bike Mat ($16) and Dry Shower ($11.99). The folks at Muc-Off describe Dry Shower as being “specifically formulated to kill odour causing bacteria and germs with its gentle yet effective, coconut derived cleaning ingredients … leaving you feeling and smelling fresh and clean”. Being a pH balanced formula containing no alcohol, we found it to be an effective post-ride cleaner (or, in a pinch, ‘dry’ shower); much better than our homemade version of witch hazel and rubbing alcohol.
With the Bike Mat, no longer do you have to use our former staff favorite: an old towel or piece of plastic under the bike when cleaning or doing repairs in a place you probably shouldn’t be – say inside on a carpet while you’re trying to watch the Tour de France or NBA finals instead of being stuck outside in a cold, dank garage. The foldable Bike Mat, according to the company, “is made from high-grade, waterproof plastic and is a perfect size for protecting your flooring from general bike work during indoor cleaning, lubing, tuning, and even training on the bike”. And being highly portable, it’s great for travel where you don’t want to damage a friend’s floor or incur charges from irate hotel managers.
And speaking of lubes and cleaning … Muc-Off offers a premium Ceramic ‘dry’ lube (C3 – $21.99 for 120ml). With added nano ceramic particles and synthetic polymers, company rep Charlotte Sampson states that “C3 Dry Ceramic Chain Lube maximizes your power output by reducing metal to metal contact to a ground breaking, low level and provides up to 10 times the performance of conventional chain oils and lubes”. A high-tech explanation for a dry ceramic lube that offers extremely low friction, doesn’t attract dirt or dust, and is eco friendly. And when it comes to cleaning your bike, their Nano Gel Bike Cleaner ($14.99) uses Nano technology to remove dirt for every part of your bike, including part(s) you can’t see. It also comes in a concentrate form ($19.99 for 500ml, $29.99 for 1L); the refill is sold in an environmentally friendly package and is safe for all your exotic bike materials.
FIVE TEN “Brand of the Brave”
For nearly 30 years, Five Ten has been a leader in performance, high-friction footwear: from downhill mountain bike racing to rock climbing, from wing suit flying to kayaking, Five Ten makes footwear, according to the company, for “the world’s most dangerous sports”. The Redlands, California-based company produces cutting-edge designs and proprietary ‘Stealth’ rubber soles for a wide variety of outdoor sports – in fact, they’re one of the top-selling climbing shoe manufacturers in the world. Between a world-class rubber-testing R&D facility, and the feedback of top national and international athletes, Five Ten has been the shoe of choice for many adventure and extreme athletes for 3 decades.
Two of the shoes we tested for several months after the show, the Kestrel and Freerider, were designed for extreme applications of downhill mountain bikers and the BMX crowd. But our editorial crew found that both these models also offer some outstanding features and applications that many cyclists beyond the ‘extreme’ crowd would appreciate.
The Kestrel shoes ($180) were designed to transfer power to the pedals as efficiently as possible using a low-profile design and snug BOA closures. But we found that the Kestrels aren’t just extreme footwear to be used only for downhill fun or enduro events. The Kestrels feature a stiff carbon-infused shank designed to transfer power to the pedals as efficiently as possible.
(PLEASE NOTE IN THE PICTURES BELOW THAT WE SWITCHED OUT THE KESTREL INSOLES FOR THE currexSole BIKE INSOLES THAT WE WERE TESTING/REVIEWING AFTER THE INTERBIKE SHOW)
For the first time, a proprietary dual-compound Stealth rubber outsole provides the best of both worlds: Stealth’s hardest compound (C4) is utilized where the pedal contacts the shoe resulting in increased power transfer with no hang-ups, while MI6 on the heel and toe create optimal traction off the bike (MI6 stands for “Mission Impossible”, Tom Cruise used the material in the latest movie sequel). The upper is a sleek low-profile design with a breathable mesh upper and a synthetic weather-resistant toe box. The snug BOA IP1 closure system permits a custom fit with the turn of a dial. Whether intended or not, we found the design, fit, and comfort to be perfect for any kind of road/mountain bike tour – from casual fast touring to bikepacking. While the Kestrels will work great with any mountain bike pedal system we tested them using Shimano’s SPD pedals.
The Freerider bike shoe ($100) is one of those rare shoes that can go from extreme BMX play to casual, everyday rides and the workplace. The shoes feature breathable suede-leather with high-friction dotted treaded outsoles (think of that feeling you experience when walking on a sticky kitchen floor and you wonder what was spilled on it). This high-friction rubber sticks to platform pedals like clips while being extremely comfortable and offering great support. As a company rep told me – and I had to agree – the shoes “transition with ease from the bike park to the pub or workplace”. The Freerider is Five Ten’s most versatile all-mountain flat shoe. Inspired by the comfort and style of BMX, the shoe offers the support and stickiness of Stealth S1 rubber.
OUR ANNUAL “WORST PRODUCT OF SHOW”: GARMIN’S VARIA REARVIEW RADAR
Here’s how it’s supposed to work (according to the folks in Garmin’s marketing department): Varia is “like having eyes in the back of your helmet, the device alerts you to vehicles coming up quickly behind you”. It provides you with distance estimates and alerts approaching drivers with progressively brighter flashes. MSRP is $300 for the tail light and head unit; $200 for the taillight only.
Garmin’s rationale for needing the Varia was “vehicles approaching from the rear is the number one cause of bike/vehicle fatalities in the U.S.”. As one would expect, Varia works independently and integrates seamlessly with select Garmin Edge computers.
This product is wrong on so many levels; especially if you take a moment to stop and think about your normal riding patterns and local roads: what is the value of knowing how quickly a vehicle is approaching from behind on most of your rides? The one possible scenario where Varia might provide some benefit would be on a deserted or isolated road with little or no traffic – even then, the value is questionable for most seasoned cyclists.
In many situations, riders need to ‘control’ a lane (such as when the lane width is substandard, making it unsafe for a car to pass a rider). Are you going to hop up on the curb every time a car is quickly approaching you from behind … or be constantly looking behind with each ‘alert’? Buy the Fly6 (reviewed elsewhere in this article) – or one of the other excellent rear flashing lights available at your IBD – and combine with a good rearview helmet or handlebar mirror ($10-$20) and you’ll get a much idea of what’s going on behind you. Yes, I realize that many ‘serious’ riders look down on mirrors but they would be a far better choice than Garmin’s pricy gadget.
NITE IZE “DISCOVER YOUR SOLUTION”
It would be easy to walk by the Nite Ize booth at Interbike and not take a second look. No high-zoot carbon fiber bike components or frames to catch your eye. But that would be abig mistake, and it’s one that I almost made several years ago. Now Nite Ize is one of the first booths I make a point of visiting when show time comes around.
Every year they offer up an expanding selection of innovative cycling/outdoor products that deliver not only great value but gear that will make your cycling adventures a bit more fun, less complicated, and more organized. One of the reasons that it might be easy to overlook the Nite Ize booth is that much of their offerings aren’t bike-specific. If you were to visit your local R.E.I. shop, for instance, most of the Nite Ize brand would be found in the non-cycling departments. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have plenty to offer the serious cyclist – especially those riders exploring the industry’s newest emerging category of ‘bikepacking’.
But first an update on one of their products we featured last year from the show, the Handleband. There are plenty of expensive and ‘high-tech’ solutions displayed every year at Vegas for attaching devices – like cell phones – to your handlebars. At $19.99 I was a bit skeptical of how well the Hanleband would work. I haven’t been particularly happy with the maps purchased with my Garmin bike computer (for a number of reasons including cost). I prefer Google map’s (free) ‘turn-by-turn’ directions on my cell for most navigating chores. For an inexpensive and simple cell phone handlebar attachment option that works well, you just might find the Handleband to be your best option. I did.
A growing bike industry segment, as noted earlier, is the ‘bikepacking’ category. Nite Ize has way too many products to cover here but if you check out their website, you’ll end up discovering more than a few solutions to what used to be common two-wheel travel headaches.
The CamJam ($4.99) – a micro bungee (don’t confuse with their heavy-duty CamJam tie down straps!), KnotBone ($4.99-$9.99) – an adjustable bungee in a larger size, including a ‘flat’ version, and BetterBand ($3.89-$7.29) – a durable, lightweight stretch band for bundling, attaching, and organizing gear that’s UV resistant/waterproof – are all great contraptions for lashing down gear (on the bike, general travel, or at the campsite).
You’ll probably find, like I did, that much of their hardware carries over to a wide range of applications besides cycling – it’s easy to get ‘lost’ as you peruse their catalog or website. Gear Tie reusable rubber twist ties ($4.49-$7.49) – which also come in a new ProPack option ($13.49-$24.99) – have a tough, rubber shell that provides superior grip with a strong wire inside. They’re waterproof, UV resistant, and, most importantly of all, won’t scratch your valuable gear like carbon fiber parts. This technology is used on many additional ingenious Nite Ize products: twist it, tie it, and reuse it.
Gear Tie clip twists come with a sturdy plastic S-binder on one end, and a tough flexible Gear Tie on the other – great, say, for hanging a lantern, flashlight, or other piece of gear while bikepacking or camping. Or you can clip the S-binder to anything with a ‘D’ ring or loop and wrap the tie around any kind of bars, hooks, or handles. Comes in 12″ and 24″ lengths ($4.49-$5.99).
When it comes to being seen at night, Nite Ize really shines (no pun intended) with a wide range of LED options; best of all, no tools are required for assembly: TwistLit ($8.99), using Gear Tie technology, can be attached anywhere on the bike (most riders use the seatpost); See’Em mini spoke lights ($6.99) for spokes of any kind are offered in a variety of colors; SPOKELIT ($8.99) is a complete wheel lighting system in a variety of colors that, when riding at medium speed or faster, creates the attention-grabbing effect of a moving circle of light.
Helmet Marker Plus ($11.99) is a perfect choice for attaching a red LED to your helmet with a hook and loop fastener. Nite Ize has you covered with almost any imaginable lighting need you might have in the outdoors, even including stuff for man’s best friend. Smaller clip lights for everything from running shoes (ShoeLit – $4.49) to zipper pull tabs and key rings/carabiners (ClipLit -$2.79-$4.49) or the SpotLit ($7.19) help with visibility issues when the sun goes down.
As if all these lighting options weren’t enough, new for 2016 is the GripLit handlebar lights ($19.99). With stretchy rubber grips, these universally-sized bike lights slide securely over the ends of most handlebar grips (26mm to 32mm), and turn on with the simple press of a button. They run for 20 hours in glow mode and 25 hours in flash mode. Like all of the products mentioned, they use standard replaceable batteries.
Also new for 2015-16 are the Inova STS Bike Light and Helmet Light (each $34.99). Both are the first ever to use swipe-to-shine (STS) technology; activation is done with a quick swipe of the finger across the top of the light in 5 light modes (high for normal distance viewing/riding, variable dim, medium – great for reading or working at closer distances, strobe and lockout mode). Besides the cool swipe function, installation is a breeze with no tools required (a recurring feature throughout their line).
The Bike Light attaches with a quick pull-and-lock movement, attaching at the center of the handlebars; a great position when fitting to handlebars filled with other tech gadgets. Both versions can be removed from the base bracket (a nice plus, say, when touring and you get to camp and want an extra light). The Helmet Light has several attachment options: using straps (included) that can be threaded through most helmet vents or 3M VHB tape to semi-permanently adhere the base to your helmet’s smooth surface. Once in place, the Helmet Light can be adjusted to different angles for fine-tuning beam direction. Both versions are waterproof and use 3 AAA batteries (close to 5 hours on high, 255 hours on low). Both alternatives offer 142 lumens, and are ‘glove-friendly’ with the swipe feature.
MIO PERFORMANCE WEARABLES
According to Mio, “We didn’t invent heart rate monitoring, but we have mastered it.” The fitness ‘watch’ category has increased tremendously over the past few years. Mio produces a full line of models for a wide range of athletes, adventurers, and those needing accurate heart rate monitoring like cyclists, runners, triathletes, swimmers, etc.
The two basic standards of measuring fitness for most athletes is heart rate and power output. All their models feature shock-proof design, water resistant up to 30 meters, EKG-accurate, zone monitoring and data feed. We found the low profile design sleek and comfortable from the first use (we tested the ‘Fuse’ which is their most cycling-friendly model). All models connect easily to a wide array of fitness apps and devices (iPhone / Android) and sync to devices like GPS watches and bike computers through Bluetooth Smart (4.0) and ANT+. There are many options for tracking data and training through your smartphone.
We tested their most cycling-friendly monitor, the Fuse ($149). Fitness watches are now standard gear for most serious runners, hikers, or recreational walkers (providing steps, calories, and distance). The number one selling feature for our office staff was the comfort of the watch versus a chest strap monitor – while still provide ng EKG-accurate heart rate data from your wrist. “Watch” monitors like this – of all kinds and features – appear to be the wave of the future, and Mio wants to be on the cutting edge of this technology as well as being a major ‘player’ in a very competitive category.
Of course, the watch pairs with all the popular cycling computers like Garmin (or you can monitor your heart rate directly on the wrist monitor). You can also use the Mio GO app to personalize your heart rate zones, store your workouts, and automatically sync your fitness data for review. Mio claims 30 hours of workout data storage or 2 weeks of daily activity data storage (after some tweaking of software/app settings, we were able to get close to these specs after originally having difficulty with the stated battery life).
The display is customizable with configurable heart rate zones – with the option of a vibration ‘notice’ when a new zone is reached (easy feedback like this provides good motivation for many, especially the ‘recreational’ crowd)
As noted above, sweat or water won’t be an issue while providing all day activity tracking with the built-in memory. The Fuse comes in two sizes: S/M (fits wrists 5.8″-7″) and Large (6.1″-8.2″).
And for 2016, Mio released a new app called PAI: Personal Activity Intelligence; which, according to reps, “brings IQ to your heart rate.” PAI translates your heart rate data and personal profile information into one simple, meaningful metric: Your PAI score. Your total PAI score reflects heart rate data from the past 7 days, and if you keep a minimum PAI score of 100, you are helping your body maintain a top-notch health profile — maximizing your lifespan and preventing lifestyle-related diseases. The PAI app is available in the Apple Store and Google Play. The technology and category was large enough to capture the attention of Universal’s “Interbike Show” program for a special segment featuring Mio.
A look at a few of the cycling accessories that you might want for next year (and a few you probably won’t)
Mandalay Bay Hotel on the southern end of the Las Vegas strip was introduced last year as the new venue for the Interbike Tradeshow – after spending 12 years closer to downtown at the Sands Convention Center. As one might suspect with a new setting, there have been some growing pains along the way for one of the industry’s showcase events. Like last year, the introduction of consumers to the show was – to use a Vegas term – a bit of a bust. Friday’s last day ‘consumer appreciation’ attendance was up only by a few hundred over last year’s paltry 900 tally. Overall, from the business end of things, the show itself was pretty much flat compared with last year’s numbers and booth space.
With many name players like Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale emphasizing earlier 2015 introductions in private dealer events months before Interbike, many independent bicycle dealers (IBD’s) had less reason to the spend the money and resources to make a separate visit to Las Vegas. It’s been a strategy that has proven effective in maintaining market share among the dominant bike companies, and keeping many retailers from checking out the competition or new products. Also, the timing of product introductions has become less dependent on a show like Interbike. Even industry powerhouse Shimano took a break from a heavy show footprint, opting instead to use its resources for dealer clinics and tech seminars. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty to check out and report on this year.
Even with a year under my belt at the new venue, I still found myself getting turned around when I needed to make a dash for booth appointments. And it wasn’t just me that found navigating the show layout a challenge – if my conversations with other attendees was anyindication.
The first day of the show was all about reconnaissance of the convention floor and doing a quick walk-through, with the luxury of stopping at booths that hadn’t been on my radar from pre-show research. On the second day, one biz that was on my schedule was San Luis Obispo based Lezyne.
I’ve been using several of the Lezyne floor pumps (including their ‘travel’ model) for several years now. They’ve become some of my favorite cycling tools, flawlessly performing workhorse duties day-in, day-out while still being the epitome of style. Little wonder that I’ve compared their CNC-machined bike jewelry to Apple in years past when it comes to form and function.
And I’m not the only one impressed with their product lineup if the number of knockoffs of their designs is any indication. Ironically, one of those companies copying Lezyne’s designs (especially their compact CNC-machined multi tools) has been very aggressive on litigating their “design rights” when they felt others had infringed with competing products. What do they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery?
This year, for those in the ‘mature’ category of consumers in need of larger viewing displays, Leyzne had two options: floor pump models with a very simple two-button operation and auto-shutoff function with large 1.5” LCD displays for the ‘reading glasses’ demographics. If you’re old school, the Classic Floor Drive with a 3.5” precision gauge would be a great choice. ($69.99)
Lezyne jumped into the light category several years ago with state of the art LED technology with most models featuring USB recharging capability. Here in Southern California, many midweek group rides start well before the sun rises – especially in the winter months. Visibility is crucial in a setting like this where cars rule. Riders need more than just a good headlight to see the roadway, they also need bright front/rear safety lights to be seen. The Zecto Drive Pro (red rear, white front) with USB recharging cable is just the answer.
The compact, lightweight (47 gr) dual purpose pair offer up enough light to make them worth leaving on even during daylight hours: 160 lumens for the front white light and 40 lumens for rear red. The Clip-On system provides versatility either strapped or clipped on, $49.99 (all prices quoted are MSRP).
For added visibility during those difficult solo commutes, the ultra-compact Femto Drive (the aluminum body uses standard, replaceable CR2032 batteries) can be attached to almost any point on the bike frame or – my choice – the helmet. The pair offer side/ 180 degree visibility, and are well worth the extra 31 grams and $27.99 cost.
Getting a flat always sucks so you might as well make the repair as easy as possible with the Carbon Road Drive hand pump. The CRD is the ultimate in weight, durability, and performance: full carbon barrel and handle with overlapping handle pump design, CNC-machined aluminum piston and end caps. 80 grams of power, includes carbon fiber frame mount. A work of art. $99.99
And speaking of flats, have you ever tried getting off one of the new generation of tubeless tires (even ‘old school’ tires can be a pain to install when new)? Lezyne alloy levers ($16.99) or composite Matrix levers ($4.49) are guaranteed to make the job easier. Much easier. Levers, tube and CO2 cartridges can be stored in the Flow Caddy, new for Lezyne’s Year 8. The lightweight (60gr) rigid container is designed to fit almost any waterbottle cage (or rear jersey pocket), and includes a cloth organizer that fits into the caddy. $15.99
Don’t want to use a pump (or maybe, just looking for a faster inflation alternative on group gigs)? Also new for Year 8 is the CO2 Control Drive head inflator. The CDHI allows you to easily determine how much CO2 you discharge into your tire at once; a simple twist of the CNC control knob is all that’s needed. The CD head inflator handles presta or schrader tubes and uses threaded cartridges (a neoprene sleeve for insulation from the freeze of the cartridge discharge is included). 46 grams; $26.99
Lezyne offers a full line of carbon fiber, aluminum, and alloy cages ($24.99 to $59.99) to meet every need, including carbon fiber models with right or left side mounting of the waterbottle. We’ll be reviewing some of these Lezyne accessories in a future issue.
If Lezyne is the upscale, high-zoot supplier to the consumer market, St Paul, Minnesota-based Park Tool is the blue collar equivalent to the IBD/consumer shop trade. And that’s meant to be a compliment as the company has built a reputation for over a half century of designing and producing tools that are incredibility durable and user friendly. Take a look in the service area of your favorite IBD (or garage of any passionate cyclist) and you’ll find well-worn Park Tool ‘blue’ hanging on the wall. During that first year of operation 50 years ago, they introduced a repair stand (PRS-1) that was so unique they were granted a U.S. patent; since that time the line has grown to include nearly 400 bicycling products.
Of the multitude of new tools introduced this year (33 to be exact), one, in particular, was getting all the attention at the PT booth: their CP-1 chain whip pliers. As the name implies, the tool ($53.95) is basically pliers with chain pieces on either side, allowing easy lock ring removal with no manual adjustment (grips cogs from 9 to 24 teeth). Whether you’re a pro / shop mechanic or just someone that just likes to do their own repairs, this new tool will make a nice upgrade from the former standard chain whip design(s) that were guaranteed to give you bloody knuckles at some point.
In the helmet category, there was one huge buzz word this year: MIPS, “Multi directional Impact Protection System”. Developed by a Swedish technology company, the concept is to minimize impact forces to the rider’s head in an angled crash by allowing the helmet to rotate a small amount (compared to a non-MIPS helmet).
MIPS helmets, at least all that I saw by various manufactures, used an easy to spot thin liner in a bright yellow color. Curiously, only one vendor was displaying a high-end “pro” 2015 model using the relatively new technology. The option isn’t cheap as it appears to add anywhere from $40-60 per helmet – the company licenses the technology to helmet manufacturers – but that cost could drop dramatically if the feature becomes standard in helmets across the board: from budget to high-end pro versions.
Even the Giro-Bell juggernaut literally bought into the new technology with a small investment in the Swedish company. Only time will tell if this feature becomes mainstream and something consumers demand in their helmets – not just marketing hype.
And talking of high-end models, Bell was exhibiting the innovative ‘Star Pro’ – not a MIPS helmet at this time but that could change according to a company rep. To regulate this dual purpose helmet’s airflow, temperature and aero efficiency on the fly, the Star Pro uses a simple slider mechanism that opens or closes its vents. Very cool (no pun intended).
According to Bell’s Director of Marketing, Azul Couzens, “Our intention with Star Pro was to eliminate the either/or choice cyclists have long been faced with when it comes to being faster or cooler. We believe we’ve delivered a truly game-changing (helmet) …”
The helmet provides riders with Overbrow Ventilation, multi-density Progressive Layering, and a Magnetic Zeiss Shield for integrated eyewear on select models (removable with different tints to come).
While competitive riders will appreciate the ability to become ‘aero’ with a simple slide of the switch, it actually might have just as much interest from the commuter/recreational crowd that wants to close off the helmet when the weather turns sour (think snow, rain, freezing temperatures, etc.). Estimated cost will be $280 with the Zeiss Shield and $240 without. We’re really looking forward to testing the Star Pro in the near future when it becomes available to the public; you might have noticed some pro riders using prototypes in this year’s Tour de France.
“Nutrition,” as always, was a popular category at Interbike –with the usual major players in the category like Cliff Bar and Power Bar maintaining a strong presence. I use quotation marks for nutrition because many energy bars are nothing more than glorified candy bars. But that didn’t stop more than a few ‘upstarts’ from trying to elbow their way into the multi-million dollar market with their own version of the ultimate sports bar, gel or drink (including women-specific offerings). Waffle style ‘bars’ seemed to be the rage this year when it came to putting a new spin on energy replacement. The ‘waffle’ category, of course, took off many years ago with Lance Armstrong gracing the cover of the Stinger brand.
It’s always fun to stumble across a booth with cool stuff – especially one that hadn’t been on my ‘must-visit’ list. Nite Ize was one of those discoveries last year. This year they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. Founded by Rick Case back in 1989, while an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, their first product was a headband for a mini flashlight – based on a fishing trip where holding the light in the mouth didn’t work out very well. As I stepped into the booth this year, my initial quick look – like last year – turned into a half hour of browsing a range of innovative and useful products lining the walls, not all bike-specific.
With so many companies showing various mounting options for all of our high-tech toys, Nite Ize took a decidedly different approach to mounting a Smartphone to the bike with their “HandleBand Universal Smartphone Bar Mount” ($19.99) – a very simple and, surprisingly sturdy and easy design to mount your cell to the handlebars. Made with lightweight expandable silicone and an aluminum base at its core, the single band securely wraps around nearly any sized bar (including strollers, shopping carts, etc.) and phone combination.
One of my favorite gadgets was their ‘Doohickey’ ($4.99), a small key-size wonder made of durable stainless steel that features a half-dozen tools that does everything from tighten bolts and screws to opening a bottle of your favorite brew (any product that includes a bottle opener ranks high with most cyclists that I know); it attaches to your key ring or strap.
Some of their other innovative offerings included: QuikStand ($9.99),which is a portable mobile device stand in brushed aluminum about the size of a business card (and a great accessory for “credit card” – lightweight – touring where your smartphone becomes your ‘laptop’ in the hotel); LED TwistLit lights – which can be purchased individually in 3 different colors ($8.99) or as a 2 pack red/white combo ($17.99) – that can be attached almost anywhere on the bike with reusable rubber twist ties; and the KeyRack Locker ($9.99),for those that need a bit more individual customization with their pocket full of keys.
I’ve always said that Rolf wheels are the gold standard for any serious tandem team. But company owner Brian Roddy told me that for 2014-15 they’ve gone platinum with their “industry leading alloy (tandem) wheels (that) incorporate the Delta Rim Technology used on our highest end (single) road wheels” – improving handling and stiffness ($1,099 disc). They come in an axle length of 135 / 145 mm or – at a “small upcharge” – 160 ($1,179); both have a 20/24 spoke pattern (1885 grams). For race day (or when you just have the best for that important event), you can opt for the Tandem Disc Carbon (disc brake, $2,399) with its all-carbon clincher rim. The 24/24 spoke hoops, with 145mm rear spacing, come in at an impressive 1630 grams. Both tandem wheel models use titanium freehubs.
When it comes to carrying gear on your bike, I can always count on long-time industry veteran Guntram Jordan of KOKI to come up with the (soft) goods, so to speak.
The primary focus of the KOKI product line is finding creative and stylish ways to carry more gear on your tandem (or single) – whether for running errands around town, a lightweight touring gig, or a full-blown world adventure: urban bags, smartphone cases, seat bags, waterproof welded road panniers (“H20 Proof” bags), rack top bags, and a collection of handlebar bags for any need.
Guntram builds a bit of playful elegance into his gear with the use of recycled rice bags from Asia – actually polypropylene in a woven and laminated form – as their primary lining material (utilized virtually in the entire line-up). No two KOKI bags are the same as a result of using this tough and durable material that, by the way, has resulted in a thriving market for the recycled material.
Getting a lot of attention from dealers in their booth were the Fullback ($95) and Halfback ($75) rear packs – using an unique seatpost mount that can be attached to all seatposts – including carbon fiber models. The Fullback, with top and bottom waterproof molded rubber, was a prominent choice for many cyclists on several of the weeklong ‘state’ events (like Cycle Oregon and RAGBRAI) our staff visited this year.
This pack includes a raincover, and ‘gear spider’ on the top lid for storing that extra rain jacket. A nice touch, that shows attention to detail, is a top that doesn’t zip open into the seat – which makes for easier access to contents (8.5 liters at 610 gr). The Halfback doesn’t have the side pockets of its bigger brother and comes in at 540 gr and a 5 liter capacity.
Revelate Designs was one business that normally wouldn’t have been on my ‘must visit’ list except for the feedback of a few RTR staffers that spoke highly of their offerings – based on personal experience with the bag line. Eric Parsons started producing bags using an industrial sewing machine in his basement apartment in Anchorage, Alaska in 2007. Revelate Designs (originally Epic Designs) quickly built an almost cult following with their high-end bikepacking gear designed for extreme applications (like the world-famous Iditarod Trail Invitational). It didn’t take Eric long to give up his civil engineering job as demand grew.
Today Revelate remains a small Alaska-based business that sew and manufacture everything in Anchorage Alaska and Springfield Oregon, with as much domestically sourced materials as possible.The Ermine (7.1 oz, 6-12 liters) was the booth show-stopper; it’s a no holds bared, save-every-gram, racing seat pack – and it defines what the company is all about. It’s made of a blend of high performance materials including Dyneema / poly blend woven Cuben Fibre, racing sail cloth laminates and dual urethane coated ballistics. It substitutes stiff fabrics for the foam and plastics found in their other seat bags. At $175 it’s not cheap, and you better like white because that’s the only color it comes in. The Pika (12.6 oz) is a less expensive seat pack option ($125) with the same capacity as the Ermine. Thankfully, it’s available in a multitude of colors. One of our staff nabbed the Pika sample, and is hoping to put it through the paces with a few backcountry tours – we’ll review the results in a future issue.
It was only a matter of time – after seeing the consumer demand for the Go Pro video sports cameras – that significant non-cycling industry giants like Sony and JVC would take note. Even Garmin and Shimano have jumped into the sports video camera fray in the past two years. Besides bringing the weight and bulk down (with more aero designs), all these new players also upped the quality and feature options while bringing price points down considerably.
However, if you own a smartphone – and who doesn’t these days? – there is another, more economical, option to recording your daily rides, bad driver behavior, or those epic vacation two-wheel adventures. Velocity Clip touts their offering as the “world’s only universal smartphone action mount,” and includes a host of mounting accessories for almost any application. As we played around with the sample in our offices, we also realized that with a few simple modifications, you could also use Velocity Clip (mounted in ‘reverse’) as a GPS monitor with Google map’s turn-by-turn directions – probably would have helped to read the manual first to figure this out! The basic unit has a built-in tripod mount (fits any standard spec), angle adjustment, and secure rubber grips which are adjustable for any smartphone (even those with protective cases).
Velocity Clip offers a host of accessories to keep your camera optimally located for video capture: chest mount ($29.95) , head mount ($19.95), bike mount ($19.95), suction cup mount for your car’s dash ($19.95); or extra adhesive mounts – 3 flat/ 3 curved ($19.95) – for general applications. According to company reps, the stock mount has been “tested up to 150 mph, under water … as well as in jarring conditions that would see any conventional mount shaken loose”.
Having worn Bolle cycling sunglasses throughout much of the 80’s and 90’s during my more competitive days (as did superstars Miguel Indurain, Pedro Delgado, and Laurent Jalabert for those of you with a historical cycling bent), I was sorry to see the brand disappear from the cycling scene close to a decade ago. For the past several years, Bolle has been renewing its cycling roots – including sponsorship in the pro ranks (powerhouse Orica GreenEdge among others).
It was a pleasant surprise to see Bolle at Vegas this year representing a full selection of technologically advanced eyewear designed specifically for the cycling market, including their ‘pro’ level 6th Sense and Breakaway models ($179.99 to $199.99).
The 6th Sense and Breakaway models are fitted with Bolle’s exclusive B-Clear lenses. Made with ultra-lightweight Trivex material, these lenses provide visual clarity, impact resistance and are extremely lightweight. Frame shapes are engineered for optimum aerodynamics, with hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings (protects from the rain and smudge marks). Lenses, as is the industry standard these days, can be easily interchanged depending on weather conditions.
Two companies threw down challenges to RTR even before the show began. The first challenge came from the folks at Swiftwick regarding their line of compression socks. A month before the show, I received an invitation to stop by their booth. I was upfront about being skeptical regarding the advantages of a compression sock. But they assured me that’s o.k., come by and we’ll explain the benefits. Besides, if the socks are good enough for the pro ranks (teams like 5-Hour Energy and United Healthcare have been wearing Swiftwick for years) maybe there is something to the concept.
Marketing Communications Coordinator Kathryn McKinley explained that the socks were originally designed and tested in the demanding sport of cycling where a cheap sock was “unacceptable”. Over the years, the Swiftwick brand has grown to include almost any sport or activity you can imagine. Now they even produce gear for amputees.
While far from scientific, I took Swiftwick up on their offer to try the world’s first sock to qualify for a Medical Class II designation. And what better ‘testing’ ground than several days of walking miles of rock hard aisles that make up Interbike; particularly brutal for many of us more comfortable riding 50 or 100 miles on the bike than taking a hard pounding on the unforgiving floor of Manadalay Bay.
Their medical socks, according to reps, are beneficial for tired and aching legs, leg discomfort, mild to moderate swelling, poor circulation and mild varicose veins. I don’t have varicose veins but as for tired and aching legs, that’s a Vegas show given – just ask any vendor standing in a booth all day or a shop owner doing the same as me walking the aisles. The Medical Health+ version would be a great option for long distance travelers – or anyone looking for a knee-high medical compression sock for that matter – at an economical price point ($24.99); this sock can help to prevent edema and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). For athletes, Swiftwick introduced the world’s first Medical Class II athletic recovery sock, Medical Recovery+, made with REPREVE®; saying it was “perfect for athletes of all abilities, (and) this graduated compression sock is proven to bring your body back to optimal health after exercise”. ($69.99)
Their ASPIRE line is thin, light and offers serious runners and cyclists a minimalist feel to their compression sock, yet still perfect for athletes of any sport. ($17.99) At the same price point, and if you want that ‘racing’ look, they offer the VISION FIVE that several of their sponsored pro teams wear. The PULSE line is the thinnest Swiftwick sock and incorporates a patented antimicrobial silver-ion bonding process that helps to eliminate odor-causing bacteria; while the PURSUIT line is the world’s first 200 needle compression sock made from all-natural Merino Wool, sourced from farmers in the U.S.
And like the ASPIRE and PULSE lines, linked-toe technology prevents blisters in all three of these ‘cycling’ lines by eliminating bunching in the toe-box (and all are under $20). Combined with the managed compression, they support all 3 arches in the foot, making for a no-hotspot, blister-free sock. And, yes, after several days of show ‘abuse’, their medical socks made a difference. Really. In the next few months, our staff will be giving the cycling line a workout on the road.
The second ‘challenge’ I faced came from Yurbuds, claiming their earbuds, with patented twist lock technology, would be the most incredibly comfortable headphones I had ever worn. Not only did they guarantee me a secure fit, they promised that the ear pieces wouldn’t fall out of my ear under vigorous activities (like mountain biking).
Athletes have several specific requirements for any headphones they might choose for their workouts (besides sound quality of course): comfort, durability (especially when it comes to heavy sweat and changing weather conditions), and a snug fit while still allowing ambient sound through so you don’t lose awareness of your environment. It’s obvious that Yurbuds developed their extensive line with input from athletes – and a focus towards these special needs.
Two consistent features are prominent through their entire line: an earpiece that is ultra-soft and designed to match the contours of the ear, with twist lock technology; and QuikClik magnet technology (which helps to get the earpieces from getting tangled up by using powerful magnets in each earpiece that allows them to ‘stick’ together when not in use).
The sample I was given to check out, the ‘300’ Inspire series, came with two sizes of rubber ear pieces for the best fit, and was designed for active athletes like cyclists. The Inspire 300 ($39.99) did indeed live up to its claims on several fronts: they were very comfortable while still providing a snug fit under active use. When connected with a smartphone, there is a one button microphone that operates the play, pause, or track control; and allows easy connection (or hanging up) with incoming phone calls – depending on model of smartphone and Yurbud.
Yurbud’s full range of earbuds includes models for women, wireless models, and behind-the-ear versions; ranging from $19.99 to $99.99
Interbike is a mixture of innovative product introduction by both big and small companies, mainstream bike biz stuff that every IBD needs to stock, and more than a few products that leave you scratching your head in bewilderment wondering who the target customer might be – or if there is even a market. It’s this last category that can actually provide weary show attendees (and media) with some cheap entertainment.
One such product was the Zackees Turn Signal Gloves. Just wrong on so many levels. Where to begin? How about an expensive $75 price tag (that’s with pre-orders, so I’m not sure if they plan to increase the price later). Then there is the need to remove batteries after each ride when you have to wash them. Do riders really need a lighted glove that might actually confuse drivers – especially if you already have good headlights and taillights, and generally use common sense when signaling your intentions to drivers?
The company was offering a somewhat expensive battery charger option if you didn’t want to purchase special disposable batteries. I didn’t find the gloves particularly comfortable and they didn’t look very durable. Dealers and riders that I informally polled at Vegas, after showing them the sample turn signal gloves, saw little upside to the product or viable real-life benefits; with the majority giving it the ‘thumbs down’ award for the show. Far better lighting bicycle lighting concepts were being offered at the show than this $75-plus dud.
I couldn’t let any Vegas coverage go without mentioning the proliferation of electric bikes for 2014 – including a very sexy Specialized $6,000 version that is selling well here in the states. But the whole subject of motorized bikes – especially trail use issues with fat tire versions – has become a hot topic for industry veterans (to say nothing of consumer response). At the Outdoor Demo held on Monday and Tuesday before the actual indoor show began Wednesday at Mandalay Bay, battery-powered mountain bikes had a relatively huge presence compared to previous years.
Jim Felt (yes, that Felt) even came to the Outdoor Demo with a camouflaged motorized mountain bike with racks and a trailer (used for his other passion of hunting). More than a few dealers I talked to weren’t particularly enthusiastic about motorized bikes taking hunters with guns further into the remote backcountry areas, and didn’t have plans to sell the category. Sentiment runs the full gamut on the topic of motorized bikes, especially when used off-road. Recently, the Mecca of mountain biking, Moab (Utah), banned motorized bikes from many popular riding trails; a trend sure to continue across the country. On the other side of the issue, there are plenty of solid arguments for what electric-assist bicycles might be able to do for rethinking alternative transportation options.
There are days – seasons really – when riding a bicycle gets downright ugly. Literally. For those that don’t want to be held captive by Mother Nature, a ‘new’ old face at Vegas was offering solutions to make those bleak weather days a lot more palatable.
Many years ago, I had experimented with Sealskinz’s ‘all weather’ socks while living in Eugene, Oregon – where cyclists know how to do wet and cold winters. Unfortunately, my previous experience with the Sealskinz socks wasn’t spectacular, so I was curious to stop by their booth to see what – if anything – had changed with this company based out of Great Britain (where, by the way, they also know how to do wet and cold conditions year round!).
I quickly found that dramatic changes had taken place in their product offerings, design, and materials over the past decade. In fact, so much has changed that there is no way we could cover the full line here. The ‘new’ Sealskinz product line focuses on the areas that most hard-core riders find the most challenging to keep dry and comfortable when summer ends: feet, hands and head.
At the heart of the majority of their gear is a patented StretchDry technology. This is huge feature when it comes to comfort, and long hours in the saddle; allowing them to produce products which are not only waterproof and breathable but also fit close to your body. They call this Aqua Dynamic Design. A great example of their obsession to detail is their knitted sock and glove products where EACH single piece is tested for waterproofness.
Available in a range of lengths and thicknesses, they have an ADD sock to meet every possible riding scenario – all with Merino wool. Thin Socklet , Thin Ankle Sock, Thin Mid-Length Sock … all the way up to a Mid-Weight Knee-Length sock ($38-$58). The ADD technology is also used in their waterproof Cycle Over Sock ($55), a compact and lightweight shoe cover (great for dry dusty conditions as well) that’s easy to store in the back of a jersey pocket. New for 2015 are the HALO Oversocks with a repositioned zipper and a LED light that’s been added to the heel – with an easy to access, battery-operated light. MSRP is set for $70, and should be available in December.
For wet weather, Sealskinz has the Ultra Grip Gauntlet gloves with ADD features (with Merino wool lining) which will help you stay comfortable even through a Pacific Northwest soggy winter. The dotted palm and fingers offer excellent grip, even when wet, and a new (2015) cuff provides better protection. ($50)
The Handle Bar Mitten (“Lobster Claw” design) was created for cycling in the most unforgiving conditions with Primaloft insulation for extra warmth ($70); a nice touch is the fleece wiper on the thumb (if you’ve ridden in the cold, you know how handy this wiper comes in!). There is even a glove for winter use that is smartphone friendly: the Men’s and Women’s Winter Cycle Glove. The women’s model comes with a slimmer fit around the wrist and palm, with a longer finger profile. ($65) I’ve only scratched the surface with the selection here – which also includes models for kids, equestrian and hunting use. It’s easy to see why Sealskinz is now the go-to gear for riders residing in areas where winter is not kind to the unprepared. I’m glad that I took the time to visit their booth for an updated look at their line (I just wish some of this sophisticated gear had been around when I lived in Oregon years ago).
Vegas isn’t my favorite bike town for a number of reasons. The irony of holding a convention dedicated to all things two wheels in this city isn’t lost on those on the more passionate end of the industry spectrum. It’s easy to take a few cheap shots with the city’s demographics: exercise programs consist of getting up from the dinner table to hit the buffet table for a second serving, smoking is still acceptable in most public areas, drinking and gambling to excess are the norm – even somewhat expected behavior, and cycling can be a contact sport with the local drivers.
However, Vegas is making some impressive changes to its bike culture, including trying to promote bicycles as a viable alternative transportation choice. Las Vegas can now brag about having more bike lanes than cycling’s All-American bike city of Portland. Now that’s the kind of change that is truly good for those of us in the bike biz that actually get out and use our sport’s gear, and for one journalist, the most important bike accessory of all.
Rob’s involvement in the cycling community spans more than four decades, ranging from the somewhat traditional (a partner of Burley Design Cooperative for 12 years) to the extreme (four-time Race Across America competitor, where in his last attempt he finished second to Austrian Olympian Franz Spileaur). He holds a number of long-distance records with tandem partner Pete Penseyres, and has earned a few National Championship jerseys along the way. Rob has provided editorial contributions to every major cycling publication over the past 40 years, and also owns/operates a bicycle touring business that travels to exotic destinations across the world.
Like many of my fellow cyclists that can never have enough new tech gadgets – especially when it involves our favorite sport – I recently purchased one of the popular ‘sport’ video cameras this past year for my bicycle touring business. And the camera just paid big dividends in a way I never intended when I first bought it. More on that later.
Many of you are probably familiar with the “Go Pro” cameras being heavily promoted in the media these days. Even a large number of bike shops are now stocking them, they’ve become that popular and mainstream. Personally, I prefer the “Contour” line of cameras for their more compact, aero form: doesn’t look like you’ve got a brick sitting on your helmet or handlebars. But when it comes to a more polished product, with features that perform as advertised, it’s hard to top the industry-leading Go Pro.
A quick search of the internet will give you a good starting point for researching the pros and cons of each of the many ‘sport’ video cameras now available – including some recent potential game-changing models from major electronics firms (JVC and Sony, among others) hitting the market. Sites like Amazon.com offer consumer feedback ratings/comments that I find particularly useful when it comes to making a purchase decision on pricy tech toys like this.
While I found my camera to be a fun way to record clients on our tours – after all, who can resist seeing themselves on film? – it didn’t take me long to realize its potential as a defensive cycling tool when out running errands on the bike solo or commuting around town. Since moving back to Southern California from bike-friendly Eugene, Oregon, drivers have been finding ever new ways to make my life challenging with the ‘car-is-king’ culture prevalent here.
Unfortunately, distracted and impaired drivers in a hurry are a part of the Southern California cycling scene: think texting, cell phones, drunk driving, road rage and you get a partial idea of what vulnerable ‘roadies’ face these days. Hopefully, you’ll never need to document an accident or road rage incident resulting from a driver upset with you for using ‘their road’. But I’m not counting on it. Personal experience, based on 40 years and over 800,000 miles of pedaling has taught me otherwise.
I’ve found that the best means to protect myself biking is by being proactive whenever I can; assuming that drivers are going to do dumb things (yes, I understand cyclists also make stupid decisions but it’s usually the cyclist that pays the ultimate price no matter who is at fault). I carry the ubiquitous ‘smart’ phone that comes standard with a camera but when it comes to capturing the full street environment – especially the driver’s license plate or face at a moment’s notice – nothing beats having a small video camera on the helmet that can be directed exactly where you want it to go.
So back to my story, with a few insights about getting it right when you need to document an altercation with a bullying driver that wants to use their car as a weapon to teach you a lesson. Or, more probably, a confrontation with a driver that isn’t paying attention to the road conditions or is in a hurry to get somewhere. If my experiences are typical, a minimum of one in four cars are illegally ‘impaired’ in some way – with cell use/texting being the number one infraction I see. The next time you’re stopped at an intersection or red light (you do stop for red lights don’t you?), do your own informal survey of drivers texting or holding a cell phone as they make turns or cross in front of you. A scary percentage unfortunately.
Here in OrangeCounty (California), like many communities nationwide, lane shoulders and/or bike lanes are being eliminated in favor of squeezing in a second or third traffic lane. If you’re lucky, you live in a progressive area that promotes safe cycling by using sharrows (special painted markings in the lane) and signage (like “Cyclists May Use Full Lane”) where traffic lane changes have eliminated a safe cycling corridor.
Road design changes that eliminate a paved shoulder (or bike lane) without proper driver ‘education’ actually encourages road rage because, from a driver’s perspective, a cyclist appears to be taking a lane that should be for cars only – not caring (or knowing) that this “lane” used to be a shoulder or bike lane that made for safe cycling. Throw in a distracted driver or someone rushing to an appointment, and you have a volatile mixture that puts a vulnerable cyclist at risk.
On a recent Monday this past spring, I was about to find out that I wasn’t one of the lucky few that live in a ‘bike-friendly’ community. When I’m home for a few months after traveling, my normal routine is to make a run – er, cycle – to my second office (Starbucks) to catch up on paperwork, read the local paper, and, of course, to get a caffeine fix. My normal route takes me on a major road that has a bike lane that runs out about a half mile from my destination (where a third lane has been squeezed in).
It’s here, where you have to take part of the lane so that cars don’t try to force you into the gutter, that I usually turn the helmet camera on because the riding environment has deteriorated and become much more hazardous since the road was reconfigured. I was also getting tired of having one too many cars trying to ‘teach’ me a lesson about who ‘owns’ the road by passing within inches of me, or pointing to the sidewalk (which, I assume, they wanted me to ride on). Even had a few interesting items tossed at me along the way.
About a block from my ‘office’, a SUV, without any kind of warning, sideswiped me at a high rate of speed – hitting my arm with the rear view mirror. I was able to keep my bike upright, and then catch the driver at the next intersection as the light turned red.
When I pulled alongside the vehicle, the driver angrily asks me what I am doing in his lane, shouting at me that it’s “for vehicles”. Since the driver had made contact with me (actually a good thing I later learned, since it was now a more serious infraction), I asked him to pull over so I could call the police. Instead, he sped away when the light changed. The helmet cam – switched on and recording – captured everything … including the license plate number, the driver’s face, and his incriminating statements. Based on many years of riding experience, I have no doubt that the intent of the driver was to bully and intimidate me with his car by passing within inches – only this time he got too close, and made contact.
With the information from the camera – downloaded onto a DVD for the police report – it wasn’t difficult for the officer that took my report to track down the driver the same day at his home nearby. The driver tried to dispute what happened but the DVD made the difference in collaborating my account of the hit and run. The officer told me, after interviewing the driver in his driveway, that he probably would have used some of the same colorful language I had after being hit – saying, the “driver melted down”, and acted very irrationally when confronted. If there is one downside to the cameras, it’s that they capture everything, including choice comments that you might make to the driver!
If I hadn’t had the camera (especially with the helmet placement) my case wouldn’t have been as solid as it was – especially when it came to contradicting the driver’s claim I was impeding traffic (the video clearly shows little or no traffic before the accident so I was legally entitled to the full lane as I wasn’t backing up traffic). Eye witness statements – if you’re fortunate to even have anyone come forward – can be clouded or just plain wrong, but a video account isn’t going to lie or have an agenda.
If you don’t have a good description of the vehicle and/or license plate number your chances of getting any police action is near zero – and even with this information be prepared for a driver that claims it wasn’t them driving or their car was “stolen”. That’s why getting a picture or description of the driver – when safely possible – is critical.
As it turned out, I was somewhat fortunate to have a policeman writing the report that also rides a motorcycle and knows first-hand the problems of two-wheel travel – having been hit twice himself. In this particular situation, I really got the impression that the officer was in my corner on all accounts – and the video made the difference of pushing the case to the next level. He correctly noted to the driver, I later learned, that I had the right to use the whole road in a situation like this where the lane is ‘substandard’ (not wide enough for a bicycle and car to share safely). But arrogant or road-rage drivers have a way of blaming everyone else but themselves, and a long list of excuses to justify their bad behavior.
Here in California there have been some recent, and important, changes made to the California Vehicle Code (CVC) that many law enforcement personnel aren’t even aware of (most just carry a more compact ‘Readers Digest’ version in their vehicles that leaves out many of the important cycling-related details). Smart phones make it easy to download the pertinent cycling-related sections of your state’s code for easy future reference and verification if you need to cite your rights to a less-understanding peace officer.
It’s important, of course, for any cyclist to report dangerous driving behavior because this provides a clear history for any future incidents with the same driver; and, just maybe, discourages repeat road rage behavior on their part. All cyclists should take the time to make a report when dangerous road behavior is involved – you owe it to your fellow riders. Hopefully, this information will also get back to the driver’s insurance company so that their policy premiums are adjusted accordingly.
If you’re satisfied that the officer has taken your case seriously, make sure to ask them the name of their supervisor so you can send a letter of thanks (and then follow-up with a letter or e-mail). I guarantee this will pay big dividends on so many levels in the years ahead. There are few things more valuable to an officer than a favorable letter in their personnel files from a local constituent. Yes, it takes time to follow-through on any issue like this but that’s the only way change is going to take place.
For many Southern California cyclists, much of their riding is done in a group environment so cameras tend to be a less critical ‘witness’ tool. But if you commute solo or use your bike to run errands in a high-traffic area, this might make a good investment – one of the few new cycling toys that would be easy to justify to your significant other. The nice bonus is that the camera can be just plain fun when it comes to recording you favorite epic cycling action with buddies.
Ironically, the same weekend of my confrontation, I turned on the national news (ABC World News Tonight) to watch a story on another bicycle hit-and-run case in Berkeley, California that had gone YouTube viral. Cyclists (and police) had used the video from a Go Pro camera, attached to the handlebars, to track down the driver. The camera captured the car hitting the bike, and sending the cyclist to the pavement. Most importantly, after enhancing the video, the police were able to capture a license plate number. The driver claimed the car had been stolen “just that day” but the police didn’t believe the alibi, and he was arrested.
And, just recently, the Seattle Times ran a story on sport video cameras becoming a popular bike advocacy accessory for proactive Northwest cyclists looking to document bad driver behavior; citing another case where a camera provided the evidence needed to track down a dangerous driver. The gist of the article was that if sport cameras proliferate enough through the cycling community, drivers might have second thoughts about trying to use a car to intimidate riders.
As for myself, I’ll take any road victory – small or otherwise – that I can get ….
Rob’s involvement in the cycling community spans more than three decades, ranging from the somewhat traditional (a partner in Burley Design Cooperative for 12 years) to the extreme (four-time Race Across America competitor). He holds a number of long-distance records with tandem partner Pete Penseyres, and has earned a few National Championship jerseys along the way. Rob, for 15 years, made his home in Eugene, Oregon, where the cold and dreary Northwest winters drove him to “discover” exotic locales like New Zealand and South America where it is, indeed, summer in January and February. And that’s the genesis of Second Summer Tours. Second Summer Tours offices are now located in Orange County, California.
Just because there wasn’t a lot of what I call ‘wow factor’ products to check out September 17th-21st inside the Sands Convention Center and at the Outdoor Demo (held in Boulder City the first two days), didn’t mean that the show was – to use a Vegas term – a bust. In fact, numbers for both vendors and dealers was up according the folks at Interbike, “… both Interbike and OutDoor Demo saw significant gains in key metrics such as number of exhibitors, total attendees and net square feet”. For both these groups – the show isn’t open to the public – a quiet product year was probably a good thing since it gives IBD’s, in particular, a bit of breathing room going into 2013 with buying and vendor decisions.
The good news, for small businesses displaying at the show, was the opportunity for a bit of media attention that might not have happened if the big players in the industry had brought ground-breaking product to the floor (say, like Shimano’s electronic grouppos in previous years).
The first stop in an attempt for find a little surf in the Vegas desert was the Shimano booth – and by the number of familiar press passes, it seemed that I wasn’t the only one in search of a bit of interesting show copy. The industry giant has always played the role of the proverbial elephant in the (show)room when Interbike rolls around, and this year was no exception.
For the past two decades, it has been a case of other companies trying to stay up with Shimano’s innovations and lead in the component marketplace. In a rare bit of role reversal, Shimano appeared to take a cue from Campagnolo’s 11-speed offering, and introduced their own ‘mechanical’ Dura-Ace version at this year’s show (electronic 11-speed Dura-Ace should hit the market in early 2013). Since the 11-speed ‘mechanical’ Dura-Ace wasn’t really big news or much of a secret – media and public alike knew months ago – the main reason for visiting the booth was to actually test ride the stuff to see how it performed.
As Shimano executive Wayne Stetina (long-time icon in the cycling community, and someone who used to regularly destroy my legs on training rides before work) told a group of gathered journalists during a demonstration, “mechanical is alive and well.” And he just might be right. After some time playing with the new component group on a trainer, I found myself giving the shifting one of the few mental ‘wow factor’ awards for the show – it was that good. One disclaimer: the bikes were ‘show ready’, and the shifting was about as good as it’s going to get performance-wise.
I’ll be curious to see how the gruppo’s performance holds up after months of use under typical rider usage and maintenance parameters. The 9000 mechanical group (approximate cost $2,500 / sold separately) also includes a cool design change that utilizes the same bolt circle diameter for both compact and traditional chain rings – a welcome improvement.
For the tandem and mountain bike community, it’s going to be a long wait for electronic shifting to trickle down to their end of the cycling niche because the demand is so high for the ‘conventional’ road bike market. Of course, tandem manufacturers haven’t had any problems using double-ring cranksets on some of their models with the electric shift systems.
At previous shows, I’ve compared Lezyne to Apple while calling their products “functional jewelry”. Eye candy is a way over-used show term but the Lezyne booth – with displays full of multi-tools, lighting systems, hand and foot pumps, shop tools, and cages – was just that. They’ve done such a good job with their design work, in fact, one major bike company came out with their own mini-tool line that looked to be taken straight from the Lezyne catalog. What do they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery …
Marketing manager Patrick Ribera-McKay showed me the 2013 highlights as we walked through their booth. Even ‘simple’ every-day products like a foot pump and shop tools can produce a ‘wow’ under the guidance of the Lezyne engineering and design teams. For 2013, it would appear that the engineers in San Luis Obispo have, again, done their homework.
Not a biz to shun competition (they co-sponsor a pro cycling team), they jumped into the highly competitive lighting category in a big way last year. For 2013 the evolution continues with the introduction of their top-end Mega Drive light ($199.99): a 1000 lums, self-contained CNC sculptured beauty with a host of high-performance technological features – including constant current and one piece internally reflected lenses. They also redesigned the Super (500 lums), Power (400 lums), and Mini Drive (200 lums) xl models with new CNC machined aluminum bodies. If you want a bit of style with your lighting system, check the full line out.
Tandem and recumbent riders (and others with compact frames) will find Lezyne’s dedicated left or right off-set waterbottle cages an answer to the problem of getting a waterbottle in and out of the cage easily with tight clearances. (Another option, maybe not offering as much panache as Lezyne’s model, is Blackburn’s new Sideroller bottle cage). They also will be offering a full line of unique ‘organizers’ for both off and the on-the-bike storage needs (think cell phone, camera, tools, etc.), as well as a full selection of well-designed quick release seat bags.
A big reason for my visit to Vegas was to check-in with the major tandem players to see what was new for 2013. Like the industry as a whole, there wasn’t a lot of breaking tandem headlines to report on. It’s even been awhile since a few of the major bike companies (like Trek and Cannondale) have offered much – if anything – to the tandem community. Which keeps ‘made-in-the-USA’ niche players like Co-Motion and da Vinci Designs working overtime to fill the demand.
da Vinci Designs has had their hands full the past couple of years just keeping up with the demand for their bikes, so don’t expect to see a lot of new product introduction for 2013. Even a lousy economy hasn’t seemed to impact the business in their new digs in Colorado. “The ability to coast independently makes riding a tandem far more natural and enjoyable” has been the mantra for this Denver-based biz for several decades now. Like Co-Motion, they handbuild their machines in the U.S. (with the exception of the imported Grand Junction model) with a level of craftsmanship hard to find with the ‘big box’ bike companies. For tandem teams looking for versatile and bulletproof wheels, DaVinci was displaying their 26” custom Rolf Prima / da Vinci Designs tandem wheels – now available for rim or disc brakes (front and rear).
Co-Motion came to Vegas celebrating 25 years in the business of producing American handmade bikes – based out of my old hometown of Eugene, Oregon. The booth displayed samples showing why they’ve become the most popular U.S. tandem biz: the innovative, highly adjustable PeriScope line (Scout, Torpedo and Hammerhead), road/touring and racing tandems, S&S travel options; and for the single bike crowd, cross (two new hydraulic-ready models), urban, and heavy-duty touring offerings.
Many times a company will spec components for their bikes not based on intended use but, rather, for marketing purposes and perceived ‘value’. In the case of Co-Motion, co-owner and the ‘face’ of the biz, Dwan Shepard specs what actually is the best match for the intended use of each of their models. Hence, Continental tires were prevalent throughout the booth of bikes – a tire that’s not only pricier than many other brands they could have used to keep costs down, but one that can be a challenge to procure on a regular basis. But the tire is a great match for tandem applications, so that’s what they use. A small detail, for sure; but one that speaks to the level of design and detail the company puts into its bikes. By the way, partner Dan Vrijmoet might operate behind the scenes managing bike production, but put him on two wheels and you’ll see why he’s the company guy for developing fast designs for their machines.
If you want some good examples of what makes Co-Motion tandems special, take a look at these models from the show:
• Equator (base: $7,095). The tandem eliminates derailleurs and complicated controls with an internally-geared 14-speed Rohloff hub and duel Gates Carbon Drive belts (Co-Motion pioneered the use of the Gates system several years ago), and a 44mm Chris King internal headset.
• The race-ready Robusta (base $7,455) has a lighter weight (and semi-compact lateralless frame) for 2013, as well as (standard) dual discs. The Supremo also got a similar make-over for 2013 with a lateral-less design and Di2 option.
• The Macchiato (base $9,525) was shown with a really cool fighter jet themed paint job, and, at 24.8 lbs, is race-ready. And if you really want to fly, add on the Ultegra Di2 upgrade ($1,049).
• The Trident ($6,395) continues the PeriScope legacy with a budget-priced three-seater for the whole family; dual disc brakes and 26” wheels make this a durable machine. The PeriScope concept was another Co-Motion first that has set the standard for a multi-use, adjustable tandem.
• And since small details that matter was mentioned earlier … check out their new stainless steel dropouts and Max-Adjust stoker stem – polished, CNC machined beauties.
I got a pleasant surprise when I stopped by the Ritchey booth to visit with a former business partner from Oregon. It seems that Tom Ritchey (yes, that Ritchey) and his wife Martha have been “field test(ing) all over the world” a new tandem offering, the Double Switchback. World travel on a tandem isn’t a bad perk – probably helps when you’re the boss and own the business though.
Using the proven Ritchey Break-Away design familiar to their single (travel) bikes, this tandem uses 650b mountain wheels but also accepts 700c road wheels and tires. It makes, according to one show staffer, for a “versatile machine for travel”. ETA for bike shops should be early to mid 2013, with a tentative frame price somewhere in the $3,600 range (which will include two suitcases).
One large company that hasn’t left the tandem market is KHS, displaying their value-packed offerings again this year. Both models feature mechanical discs. The Milano, the ‘road’ offering, comes in at $1,899 and is available in two sizes: small (20/16) and medium (23/21); and features a 6061 alloy frame with oversized CrMo fork. The Sport, an entry-level model, comes in a 18/16 and 20/16 size and features a CrMo frame – a great value at $1,139 (especially since this end of the market isn’t really being serviced by the industry at this point).
The Cardo headphone communication system for cyclists also had a prominent presence at the KHS booth since they’re the distributors (see the last edition of RTR for the review of the devices). At $469 for a pair they’re not cheap but they do offer a host of high-tech features that haven’t been available to the cycling community before. Cardo might be a familiar name to those that ride motorcycles.
When I lived in Eugene, Oregon (as a partner of worker-owned Burley Design Cooperative for 15 years), I had to learn very quickly the basics of riding in the rain – especially since I had moved from sunny Southern California where few venture out when there is even a light drizzle or the roads are wet. Burley Design Cooperative designed and manufactured rain gear so I had part of my learning curve covered when I moved north. When the cooperative disinagrated over a decade ago, many cyclists – myself included – scrambled to find an alternative source for our rain gear. Enter Showers Pass …
For the past 5 years, this Portland-based business has grown and refined its foul-weather gear with the latest high-tech fabrics and designs. Last year, in a bit of irony, they even developed a bicycle-mounted hydration system that aimed to deliver water to the rider (not repel it).
There were a handful of companies featuring foul-weather gear for cyclists at the show, but what sets Showers Pass apart – besides the quality and design – is value. For example, their Pro Tech ST ($125) uses a high-tech transparent waterproof/breathable fabric which is incredibly lightweight and packs easily into the rear pocket of your jersey; a great jacket also for chilly early morning riding where you want to cut the wind. Several other companies had a similar offering – the high-tech transparent material is popular with the high-performance crowd – with a MSRP substantially higher and no significant difference in quality that I could decipher.
They also have a complete line of clothing (pants, helmet covers, jackets, booties, etc.) for both men and women, and a jacket to match every kind of riding condition (racing, commuting, touring, casual). Rain pants have always been a piece of foul weather gear that I’ve found problematic when it comes to solving the comfort versus water protection equation; so I’m looking forward to testing their rain pants this winter season (“Roadie” and “Club Convertible 2 Pant”) to see how well they function.
Cyclists – tandem and recumbent riders in particular – are always looking for a little more storage space on their bikes for extra gear. KoKi might just have the answer for you with a nifty, and stylish, selection of what I call ‘frame’ bags – with the versatility to attach to many different locations on any bike.
They also offer a full range of touring, urban, rack-top, and seat post bags. The contoured Flow, a rack-top model, offers a great option with the ability to convert to a daypack – the mesh shoulder harness zips away to allow easy attachment to your rack.
Owner Guntram Jordan calls their top-end seatpost pack, the Fullback, a “brevet buddy” – with its large top opening, waterproof top and bottom, and outside pockets. The innovative quick release makes removal a snap when you don’t need to take the bag along for extra space. On any large tour these days – like ‘state’ rides such as Cycle Oregon – you’ll find these seatpost bags as the most popular way to carry extra gear.
One of the more unique features of virtually all of their packs is the recycled rice bags used as liners. In Asia you see these bags everywhere, according to Guntram; “especially in its woven and laminated form as rice, feed, and seed bags … the bags are tough and durable”. Since these bags are recycled (after being cleaned, sorted by color and size, etc.), no two KoKi bags are alike inside. Cool.
When I’ve ridden tandem competitively (usually as the stoker), I’ve heard more than once the all-to-familiar “power … more power”. In the case of Vegas, more power wasn’t a problem as plenty of new power-measuring systems are hitting the market. In 2011, Look partnered with Polar to introduce the Keo Power set-up ($2,500); and, unlike the Garmin Vector system (also introduced at last year’s show), it actually came to market.
Quarq (recently acquired by SRAM), showed a different approach to measurement by building the system into the crankset’s spider. At roughly $1,750 to $2,000 (depending on crankset) both are pricy ‘toys’ for your holiday wish list.
Pioneer – yes, the same company famous for its electronics like home theater – had a small presence while introducing their SGX-CA900 cyclocomputer at $700 and SGY-PM900 wireless water-resistant pedaling monitor sensor at $1,500 (sold with a $80 b.b. that will work with Shimano’s Dura-Ace and Ultegra cranksets). Available early next year, the device will be able to measure individual left/right leg data. Information can be downloaded, transferred, and shared through Pioneer’s online service.
Coming in at a substantially lower price point, the Stages One System ($700 to $900 depending on crankset) uses a small module that it adheres permanently to the left crankarm. This lightweight piece will transmit to most ANT+ receivers (like the Garmin). As you might imagine, this unit is going to have a few less bells and whistles than its more expensive competition.
Calfee, famous in the tandem community for their high-zoot tandem offerings with exotic options – to say nothing of his bamboo bike frames – focused their show presence on their solid reputation for carbon fiber repair and special modifications (like special routing for Shimano’s and Campy’s electronic shifting systems, or the ability to store a battery in your seatpost).
Cirrus Cycles had a suspension seatpost, the “Body Float”, that might perform well for tandem applications (especially the stoker). The seatpost uses two coil springs and has no damping – just isolation from bumps. A quick showroom test wasn’t enough, however, to make much of an educated opinion of long-term performance.
Buddy Bike presented two new models for 2013: Buddy Bike Sport Deluxe and Buddy Bike Adventure. Buddy Bike terms itself the ‘alternative tandem bicycle’.
According to spokesperson Shelley Patterson, Buddy Bike Sport Deluxe will feature Fallbrook Technologies Inc.’s award winning NuVinci® N360™ Continuously Variable Planetary transmission. Both models will be based on the innovative Buddy Bike patented design that places the stoker in the front seat while the captain steers from the back. BB Sport Deluxe will include the features and larger frame of BB Sport, the company’s most popular bike model. BB Adventure is a single-speed, simplified bike model that will be available exclusively to bike rental shops and adaptive cycling programs in an effort to provide more locations where families may experience the Buddy Bike. Both of these new models will be available sometime late this year.
Shelley stated, “The simplicity and no-maintenance features of the NuVinci N360 eliminate novice-rider fears over shifting, (allowing) parents to focus on enjoying a safe ride with their children. Our goal (is) to encourage more families to bicycle, especially families with special needs children who might otherwise never enjoy the thrill of riding a bicycle.”
Another ‘proudly made in the U.S.’ manufacturer, Rolf Prima – and a ‘neighbor’ of Co-Motion’s in Eugene, Oregon – was again displaying what they call the “gold standard” for tandem wheels: “hands down the ultimate choice for fast and lightweight wheels”. Options, as in year’s past, are rim (1830 gr) or disc brake (1895gr) compatibility; 20 /24 bladed spokes. A quick look around at any tandem rally will confirm Rolf Prima’s claim to being the gold standard.
In what could be a game-changer in the sport video camera market, two mainstream electronics brands hit the show for the first time – giving some serious competition to industry leaders Go Pro and Contour (also attending the show).
JVC showed their new Adixxion Action Camera at $349, with features that include being waterproof (without any special protective housing), Wi-Fi built-in, and digital imaging stabilization. Sony, at $269 (version with Wi-Fi) also offers stabilizing features but not the built-in waterproof design. Sony’s Gregory Herd stated that their cameras would soon be available at R.E.I. At the dirt demo, the first two days of the show, Looxcie showed off a tiny video camera that attaches to your ear like a Bluetooth headset, allowing you to talk on the cell while streaming live action via WiFi, 3 or 4G. The 10-hour version has a $179 msrp.
And, finally, I stumbled across the ultimate wipe for bike use from the folks at White Lightning: bamboo wipes that are tough, sustainable, and recyclable (6 wipes for $6.00). Maybe there is something going on with this bamboo thing; first Calfee bikes, and now this.
By the way, no need to thank me for the plug White Lightning; it was a slow news day.
Months before the Interbike show starts – September 12-16 this year – the e-mail press releases from various exhibitors begin to arrive in my mailbox. Most of the material is your typical run-of-the-mill p.r. stuff that you’d expect to see before a major trade show. In the case of a niche market like cycling, the product being promoted was guaranteed to improve my – your – cycling life: making us faster, more stylish, and healthier depending on what was being hawked.
Of course, there are plenty of serious products to check out each year at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, the setting for Interbike the past decade. It’s just that some of the fringe offerings – like the ‘athlete’ titanium wrist bracelets claiming to enhance energy, good luck and “life” levels (whatever that is) – pushed the limits of reasonable, or even truthful, advertising. But after a week of all things two wheels – combined with the boulevard’s themed hotels and cheesy promotions – the line between reality and deception starts to blur a bit.
As in years past, Interbike began with two days of the ‘dirt demo’ in the normally dusty setting of Bootleg Canyon – about a hour’s drive outside of Vegas, near Boulder City. The Outdoor Demo, as it’s officially designated, gives dealers a chance to test-drive much of the product to be displayed inside the Sands Convention Center later in the week. I say ‘normally dusty’ because the second day of the outdoor venue on Tuesday included an industry bike ride to Lake Mead that featured a heavy dose of Mother Nature’s fury with lightning and an intense thunderstorm; even forcing the park service to cut the ride short because of minor flooding issues.
I had several goals for this year’s show – including the usual search for tandem-related product and visiting the ‘must-see’ booths that were generating a buzz among the attendees. On Wednesday morning, when the real work of selling product began inside the Sands Convention Center, my first planned stop was the Lezyne booth to check out what was new with the San Luis Obispo outfit. First, however, I had to weave my way through some pretty cool ‘bike’ artwork being displayed in various locations throughout the show; some of which was being sold for charity.
Anyone that’s owned an iProduct will tell you that Apple got it right by combining a heavy dose of style with quality workmanship, ahead-of-its time features, design, and performance. Lezyne appears to have taken a bite from the Apple approach with a line of cycling accessories that can be best described as functional cycling jewelry; product that will bring a smile to your face every time you need to use it. How often can you say that about most of your bike tools or accessories? It was as good as any reason to make their booth my first visit after checking out the cycling artwork on display.
New for 2012, Lezyne jumps into the (crowded) light market with several cordless handlebar/helmet lights; with the Super Drive LED being their top end model. According to marketing man Patrick Ribera-McCay, “two years ago we started researching LEDs and found a gap in the market to target”. Some of the main criteria their engineers were looking for in a bicycle light included: aluminum body for durability, high output (450 lumens for the top end Super Drive LED), easy to replace “industry standard” batteries (for longer burn times if needed), and competitive price ($110 MSRP for the top end S.D. LED). All their light models are compact, lightweight (CNC-machined aluminum), and low profile; with the same handle – solid feel – you get from their other flagship offerings: mini-pumps, multi-tools, foot pumps, and shop tools.
They also have developed for 2012 something they’re calling the Air Bleed System (ABS), a patent pending design that allows their Flip Thread Chuck and Flex hose in their pump systems to incorporate a pressure release valve (making for much easier removal of the pump when inflating Presta tubes). According to Patrick, this feature upgrade for 2012 will be “retrofittable to all previous model Lezyne pump products”.
Lezyne, who had great success as a sponsor of the HTC pro team in 2011, also was showing a new line of shop tools, including a unique Y-wrench (3 way tool) that has a “Serviceable Body Design”: a 2 piece CNC-machine steel body held together by 3 allen screws. This will allow for easy replacement of worn bits on the tool. Very cool concept that provides extended service life.
A step away from the Lezyne booth was another booth on my Vegas wish list: Co-Motion Cycles. Dwan Shepard who, along with Dan Vrijmoet, runs the Eugene, Oregon tandem biz takes a rightful pride in their ‘Made in America’ bikes. Dwan and Dan don’t have to worry about explaining a ‘Designed in America’ label that other bike manufacturers use to explain product sourced off-shore.
There are a couple of folks that I really enjoy visiting every year at Interbike when it comes to discussing the current tandem/bicycle marketplace – mostly for their straight-forward talk and honest industry insight that doesn’t include a heavy dose of self-serving marketing spin. Dwan, who successfully battled cancer several years ago and continues to ride daily, showed he still has the passion for building bikes as he walked me through the booth and talked about some of the 2012 design changes and improvements to their 2012 line-up.
Dwan showed me the new BB30 FSA SLK-Lite tandem cranks on their race models – which meant they had to fabricate BB-30 shells, including their own BB30 eccentric shell (a first in the tandem biz).
With in-house CNC lathes and mills to produce their machined parts, they continue to make many improvements in their line (many unseen). Dwan also notes that, “we’re getting pretty savvy with CAD/CAM work … (which) results in smoother-looking parts that integrate better with our frames”. Recent improvements in production mean that the lead time for tandem orders has been reduced – 4 to 6 weeks depending whether a stock or custom frame is desired. I asked about the Gates carbon drive system they introduced to the tandem market several shows ago (a lubricant-free, non-stretch belt and pulley system used on the ‘drive’ train of tandems, or for single gear singles) and was told that after many miles of use, the system has proven itself, and was a stock feature on many of the models.
New for 2012 is the 29 ‘niner’ Java model, an ultra-rugged frame which should handle just about any off-road challenge you could face in your cycling adventures. The tandem features a huge, specially-built fork with Co-Motion designed super-sized zonally-butted tubing. The Java – with a base price of $5,365 – has plenty of clearance for large tires/fenders, and can be equipped with 700c tires easily with the stock Avid disc brakes.
One of the most versatile tandem concepts to hit the marketplace in years, Co-Motion’s PeriScope model(s) has continued to evolve over the years as it’s grown in popularity. The PeriScope tandem models for 2012 include the Scout (MSRP $3,195), Torpedo (MSRP $4,445), and, for the racing crowd, the Hammerhead (MSRP $7,325). All PeriScope models use a quick-release dual telescoping seat mast system that grows with your children (or allow easy change/versatility with different stokers that would otherwise be hard to fit on conventional tandem set-ups).
Next up on my show tour was another industry favorite, Todd Shusterman – the man behind da Vinci Designs and his innovative independent coasting system (ICS) for tandems. Keeping with this year’s Interbike art ‘theme’, the da Vinci booth, as usual, was filled with stunning Brian Davis original art.
It doesn’t hurt my opinion of Todd that he also knows a bit about high-zoot IPA ales, but I’ll save that feedback for another show report.
The biggest development(s) for da Vinci Designs this year wasn’t so much what they were displaying at Vegas; rather, it had to do with their move to new digs in Denver, Colorado purchased this year.
When first introduced in 1993, the da Vinci Designs patented independent coasting system offered a radically new way for people to enjoy riding tandems. (I still remember being impressed with the first generation of ICS on a tandem that I rode with Todd in Boulder in the early 1990’s, while on a business road trip for Burley Design Cooperative).
Eventually, Todd figured the best way to ‘sell’ ICS was to produce tandems in-house rather than licensing the feature to others; it also resulted in another ‘Made in America’ success story. Unique to their line of tandems are four chainrings and a wider range of gears than any other tandem brand. Most importantly, from their perspective, is the elimination of most shifting issues that many tandems face.
Both Todd and Dwan still have a bit of that ‘inner child’ excitement when it comes to producing their tandems or talking bikes, and it shows in the details and pride of the end product. And like the other tandem guru at the show, Craig Calfee, they don’t seem to mind getting their fingernails dirty in the pursuit of a better product.
Near the end of the show, as I was talking industry stuff with Todd, one of his tandem-spec suppliers came by to discuss the requirements for a small custom part for one of their tandem models. I jokingly asked the supplier if Todd was picky in his spec “demands”; and with a sly smile, she told me that he wants “everything perfect”. But, I imagine, Todd’s customers also demand the same.
One of the largest bike categories every year at Interbike is the boutique wheel market … it seems that there is a wheel set for every price and ride category you could possibly imagine; especially at the high end. But when it’s come to the tandem market, one name has been synonymous with the high-performance category: Eugene (Oregon)-based Rolf Prima. If any company has the right to brag in their brochure that their tandem wheels are the “long reigning gold standard of tandem wheels”, Rolf does with their hand-built, ‘Made-in-America’ hoops.
Brian Roddy, the current owner of Rolf Prima, worked with Rolf Dietrich (the original inventor of the paired spoke design) while at Trek on the introduction of the technology. Before a short stint at Burley – where I got an opportunity to see his engineering skills up close when we both were partners of the cooperative – Brian, Rolf and two former Trek colleagues (also former Burleyites) started up Rolf Prima in Eugene in 2002. To minimize confusion between Trek made wheels and theirs, they chose ‘Rolf Prima’ rather than just ‘Rolf’.
Brian says that “I’ve been involved with the Rolf wheel program since day one at Trek through all the Rolf Prima years in Eugene”. As many in the cycling community already know, when Rolf retired in 2009, Brian bought the company from his partners – continuing the same level of passion in their business model that Rolf was well known for.
Rolf offers tandem wheel configurations with a full disc (front/rear) option – using the ISO 6-bolt standard, or just a rear disc option. Both have the same 20/24 spoke count. Brian, an avid mountaineer when he isn’t riding his bike or building wheels, also told me that they “expanded our line over the last two years to be compatible with 160mm rear frames and various rear disc brake spacing”. For 2011 they’re using a higher end alloy in the rims for increased rim life, as well as introducing 26” wheels.
While Calfee wasn’t displaying any tandems at the show, their small booth was still crowded with dealers asking about the custom carbon fiber repair service they were promoting, as well as the cool retrofit kits for Shimano’s electronic Di2 shifting (including an internal “seatpost” custom battery). Calfee rep Michael Moore did assure me that not only are they still producing tandems (as they have since 2000 with the introduction of the Tetra Tetra), they have a couple of exciting offerings for 2012 that they didn’t have space to show in the booth. When it comes to lightweight carbon fiber tandems, few in the cycling community would argue that Craig Calfee has paid his dues, and is now the premier tandem builder with the high-tech material.
S&S couplings for traveling Calfee tandem teams will now be available for their (lighter) Dragonfly model – the couplers add 3 pounds, bringing the total weight to an amazing 24 pounds (whew!). Previously, only the Tetra model had this option (approx. 28 lbs with couplers). Other options for 2012 include: dual Gates belt drive system (leveraging two eccentric bottom brackets), Rohloff hub compatible frame, Di2 internal battery and wiring system (including a configuration for coupled frames!), and an exotic full-carbon stoker bar-stem (no pictures yet). As you might imagine, the price of exotic doesn’t come cheap from the company that was building carbon fiber bikes way before they were “in”: the Dragonfly will set you back $10,295 with couplers (deduct $2,500 sans couplers).
If you ever wanted to ride a tandem-specific tire made by the same biz that sponsored one of the leading pro teams in 2011, here’s your chance. Schwalbe, sponsor of the Leopard-Trek pro team, was displaying a “tandem” tire (in fact, they were the only tire company at the show that I could find with such an offering). For your heavy-duty adventures on hard-pack dirt roads or wherever you need a ‘bullet-proof’ tire, Schwalbe was offering up the Marathon Dureme Tandem in a 26” (x2.00) and 700” (x40c). According to the literature and the rep at the show, the tire is a “strengthened tandem version for heavy loads”, with a re-enforced sidewall. MSRP will be (approximately at press time): $90.
Rumors of a new Speedplay off-road pedal have circulated for months, if not years. But this year, a new pedal called the Syzr (pronounced scissor) was finally ready for public view at Interbike … but full production is still many few months away and pricing has yet to be set. This pedal might be a good option for those tandem teams that like to use a ‘walkable’ touring shoe for their tandem rides. The pedal features a “pedal grabbing cleat’ that’s different from Speedplay’s normal configuration but still retains a significant amount of adjustable float (10 degrees). The big rumor at the show – which couldn’t be confirmed at the time – was that Garmin had bought Speedplay. An interesting development if proven true; especially in light of the other significant ‘pedal news’ (below) that makes measuring your power output far easier than ever before.
Pedal-based power output measurement appears to be finally coming to the marketplace after several years of fits and starts … the somewhat infamous ‘vaporware’ of every bike trade show when samples and prototypes fail to materialize into production models. The good news is that several companies (Garmin and Look) appear ready to start shipping pedals that are easy to install (no wheel, crankset, or drivetrain hassles), using somewhat common ANT + wireless technology, and independent right/left leg power measurement. Both companies utilize a system of strain-gauge sensors inside the hollow pedal spindle – recording force vectors (displayed on the computer head in watts). An added bonus with this approach is the ability to easily switch pedals between bikes for power measurement.
The downside of this high-tech development? Get ready to max out the credit card for another expensive cycling toy … and start practicing a good explanation to the spouse for that unusual item charge on your monthly Visa statement. Garmin’s Vector pedal will run you around $1,495 (available in March); and uses what appears to be a pedal they sourced themselves but are calling “Look Keo compatible”. If I was a betting man (this is Vegas after all), other pedals will follow in 2013 using similar technology – this is where that rumor starts to make business sense. Look and Polar have collaborated with a pedal of their own featuring – no surprise – the actual Keo pedal that Look manufactures (MSRP $2,295). I’m sure the behind-the-scenes “negotiations” – if any – were pretty interesting between these two industry leaders as each raced to introduce their own pedal-power system. Garmin’s system got the nod from my informal rider poll at the show based on price, and ease of use/number of features. Both, however, performed flawlessly when I tried ‘em out.
Electronic shifting is here to stay but I’m probably not telling you anything you didn’t know already. After the pro peloton put it through several years of testing, Shimano is finding it difficult to keep up with the consumer demand of the still-pricy upgrade. In what is one of the worst kept secrets of the past year, Shimano has now officially introduced the technology to the Ulegra line at almost half the cost. More importantly, the good news for tandem riders, according to Shimano’s marketing manger, is that the Ultegra level will be more modular, and thus easier to modify for tandem applications (as long as you’re running a double with a 27 or 28 max rear cog depending on frame). But (and you knew that was coming didn’t you?), it’s going to be a challenge to get your hands on a stand-alone Ultegra shifting gruppo as most of the production will be going to complete bikes.
And as has been the case for other Shimano component innovations, Campagnolo was playing catch-up with their Tech Lab 11 electronic shifting being displayed at Interbike. But getting any details on availability, tech spec, and pricing was about as hard as finding a cheap room in Vegas on a weekend. I’m hoping that at next year’s show I won’t be writing about Campy “vaporware”.
If nothing else, 15 years of living in Oregon as a partner of Burley Design Cooperative taught me the value of good cycling rainwear – especially commuting in the wet winter months. For years I used Burley-branded foul-weather gear but with the demise of the cooperative (now a corporation whose main focus is importing trailers manufactured off-shore), many of us were left scrambling to find a replacement. One of the companies that jumped into this cycling niche, and has proven themselves with a loyal following, was Showers Pass; incorporating a high degree of style and technical features not available previously to the cycling crowd. Based out of Portland, Oregon you know that they have one of nature’s best testing ‘labs’.
Ironically, one of the new products the biz was promoting this year wasn’t gear to keep water out while cycling – rather, it was a mechanism to bring water to the rider: ValEau hydration system. ValEau was designed by Frank Bretl (and business partner Mark Proia); both are mechanical engineers at HP, their ‘day job’. The reservoir is positioned below the seat, and has a drinking tube that runs to the handlebar; including one of the product’s major selling features: a retractable magnetic reel for easy drinking valve access. In other words, the bike ‘wears’ the system not the rider. Eventually Frank and Mark, both avid mountain bikers, connected with Showers Pass to bring the product to market – hence the introduction at this year’s Interbike.
If you’re looking for a unique way to record your next cycling vacation, there were a couple of options being shown at Interbike. The Epic Adventure and Go Pro “Hero” video cameras – attached to the handlebar or helmet – give you the ability to easily film your ride hands-free while moving down road.
Go Pro had a huge presence at the show, an indication of their take on the market potential of the cycling crowd. The downside of the Go Pro, from a cycling perspective, is the bulk and clunky architecture of the camera; while the Epic has a very streamlined ‘bullet’ shape that blends in better on the helmet or handlebars. While the Epic (around $150 depending on version) is also substantially less money than the Go Pro ($250 for nicer HD versions), it doesn’t appear to have the sophistication and features of the more expensive Go Pro; which also has a solid performance record after years of sales across the sporting spectrum. The Epic should be available to consumers by the end of the year.
If you’re the kind of rider that uses a mirror to monitor traffic behind you, then the Hindsight 35 might be an alternative to check out. The system features a rearview camera and video display (for the handlebars). Riders can see what’s coming up from behind without a mirror, and the unit records in 10 minute segments – stopping automatically in the case of an accident. The display is an ANT+ computer that will have other cycling functions/options like heart rate, power output, etc. (MSRP $299).
Buddy Bike, invented by Bob Gardner (who was also at Interbike), showed their innovative alternative inline tandem bicycles: smaller riders sit in the front while the rear rider controls the steering. The design of their bikes makes them especially beneficial for children with special needs who otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy our sport – or get outside for a regular exercise program. The pedals work together on the same drivetrain and the front seat is much lower so both riders can safely enjoy the view. The two models shown at Interbike are currently available: the best-selling Bike Sport with a Shimano Deore 27-speed hub, and the Buddy Bike Family ‘Limited Edition’ equipped with NuVinci N360 CVP drivetrain. The NuVinci drivetrain, according to company rep Shelley Patterson, makes shifting “as simple as adjusting the volume on a radio. I believe that the simplicity … will eliminate novice-rider fears over shifting”. Shelley, and Buddy Bike, also heavily promotes adaptive cycling activities, including a roundtable at Recumbent Cycle-Con on Oct 23 here in Southern California.
As noted earlier, lighting systems have become a big business if Interbike is any indication. One of the design and performance leaders for the past decade has been NiteRider. My years of RAAM training and racing – 30 years ago when you had limited options for a quality, lightweight, high-performance lighting system – have taught me to really appreciate how far companies like NiteRider have raised the bar for dependable and high-powered lights.
Tom Carroll, the man behind NiteRider (and still running the show), originally was looking for a lighting system for after-hours surfing fun when the crowds were gone. It didn’t take long to figure out that hands-free waterproof lights with lots of power would also translate well to cycle use. Over the years, NiteRider has continued to improve and evolve their products – often in conjunction with the improving nature of LED ‘bulb’ performance. They now offer a full range of lights for all of your cycling needs; corded and cordless, taillights, and more.
Atoc is the #1 source for racks for tandems, recumbents and trikes in the U.S. With good reason. They understand the challenges of carrying bikes and trikes of all sizes. Charlie Bouchalter – the man behind the Tandem Topper and DraftMaster – has been a long-time supporter of the tandem and recumbent market at rallies and consumer shows across the country. Draftmaster is part of the Atoc family product line, which also includes (Tandem) Topper; all product are American-made.
Talking with Charlie, and seeing his products over the years (not just at Interbike, but in actual use), it becomes very clear why his racks are so popular with the tandem and recumbent niche: quick installation, no expensive add-ons (kits come complete), quality materials customized for specific use, and ease-of-use with bulky and heavy bikes.
Since Interbike was celebrating its 30th anniversary, it seemed like as good a time and place as any to release a book on another important 30 year cycling milestone (as well as provide another excuse for a industry party gig, as if they really needed one) … and Geoff Drake – collaborating with Jim Ochowicz (founder of the 7-Eleven cycling team) – did exactly that with a fascinating look at “7-Eleven: America’s Greatest Cycling Team”. Geoff Drake (former editor of VeloNews and Bicycling Magazine) has written the proverbial ‘must read’ for any serious enthusiast of the American bike race scene – especially the early years when a group of top amateurs (7 medals at the ’84 Olympics) turned professional after the L.A. Olympics.
Coincidentally, Bill Humphreys, a friend from the racing days when we all wore leather ‘hairnets’, bumped into me in the aisles of the Sands Convention Center, and showed me a book he was also releasing at the show called “The Jersey Project”. It’s a coffee-table photo journal that combines shots of race/club jerseys with stories matching riders to many of the jerseys depicted. Surprisingly, the layout and content works well to take you back to another time that any seasoned and passionate cyclist will appreciate.
As the show wound down late Friday afternoon, and most of the 23,000 attendees were already on the way home, I enjoyed a few last-minute chats with industry friends and watched as a thousand-plus exhibitors prepared to ‘break down’ their booths. I left my sample titanium bracelet hanging on a bike at a booth that could appreciate the concept of sketchy marketing better than I could … and it sure wasn’t doing my ‘life energy’ much good as my tired feet led me to the exit. At least my inner child and enthusiasm for the bike scene was not only still going strong after a week in Vegas, it also had me putting together my holiday wish list for Santa.
Rob Templin, when he isn’t stuck in Las Vegas for the week, is out showing friends his favorite cycling locales with his biz, Second Summer Tours – adventure bicycle tours to exotic destinations like Maui, New Zealand, Chile-Argentina, Oregon, California; and the two major pro races in the U.S. RTR staff also contributed to this report.]]>
To most of you in the cycling community, it won’t come as a surprise that I first met Joanne and Pete Penseyres at a bike race in Southern California. The year was 1976. Inflation continued to be a problem around the world. Concorde entered service and cut transatlantic flying time to 3 1/2 hours. One year after Microsoft was formed Apple was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. In South Africa, riots in Soweto marked the beginning of the end of apartheid. Record of the year was “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille; Album of the year was Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years”. Best picture was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” staring best actor Jack Nicholson.
If you were a friend of Joanne and her 1000 watt smile – and who wasn’t – you also ended up getting Pete as part of the package. They sort’a came as a pair I soon learned. While cycling in all forms was a significant part of Joanne’s world, it would be unfair to define her legacy solely in terms of all things two wheels.
I still remember thinking at that first meeting in Acton, California that Pete had done pretty good for himself, being an “old” man and such, to marry the cute blond that was so full of youthfull energy. That was over 3 decades ago, and my opinion of what constitutes old age has changed considerably over the years.
Joanne’s passions were many, but teaching, the church, and family were especially high on her life list … and, of course, the outdoors – especially the sport of cycling.
Maybe a bit of an understatement but Joanne was always up for an adventure – whether supporting a cross-country bike effort, or getting on a tandem herself for some two wheel fun. Before the intense RAAM cycling years, Joanne would join Pete for hiking, camping, and backpacking trips with family and friends.
I remember one memorable backpack trip to the California Sierra mountains that almost ended in disaster when Joanne slipped on an ice patch while traversing a remote Class II pass still covered in snow. It was near the end of the trip, and all of us were looking forward to some ‘real’ food after a week of eating freeze-dried camping grub. We had spent most of that day on a rugged route that challenged all of our abilities; more of a goat path at 10,000’ than a real hiking trail.
On the way down from this last high pass of the trip, we came face-to-face with a huge snowfield still icy in the late morning hours. The only safe way to get down the mountain, we quickly determined, was a technical traverse of this steep-angled obstacle.
Our small group of four caustiously inched across the snowfield making good progress as we kicked toe-holds into the snow – until we heard Joanne’s scream and watched in horror as she gathered speed sliding down the ice chute after slipping. Her backpack acted like an unintentional bobsled – but she didn’t have any safety features installed on this ‘E’ ticket ride down the mountain. A rock outcropping near the bottom abruptly stopped the freefall but we couldn’t tell the extent of her injuries from our perch high above. The rest of us didn’t have the luxury of time to panic – we still had to safely get across the snowfield ourselves before we could make our way down to render first aid.
We considered ourselves fortunate that Joanne ended up only needing stiches – after an ardous hike out of the wilderness to reach an emergency room in the Sierra foothill community of Independence. Joanne, like so many aspects of her life, never really complained about the injuries or pointed fingers at the person responsible for choosing such a risky route (me). It wouldn’t be the last time that Joanne would find herself in an emergency room as a result of her outdoor adventures.
Pete and Joanne were married in 1965. The war in Vietnam continued to worsen, health warnings were mandated on cigarette packets, a favorite kid’s toy was the Super Ball, the average cost of a home was just over $13,000, Sound of Music won the Oscar, and the Beatles released four major albums but Simon and Garfunkel had the most popular hit with “The Sound of Silence”.
Their courtship included a classic ’58 Chevy (that eventually became the family’s ‘wedding car’); with a black Volkswagen bug replacing Joanne huge ’59 Mercury after they got married – the iconic ‘beetle’ that I first saw Joanne sitting in at Acton that day of the bike race. All of us would spend way too much time in that bug traveling to races and various bike events over the ensuing years.
As easy as it is to cataglog one’s life into files of tangible facts, numbers, and accomplishments, Joanne left her family and friends with something far more special and enduring.
Joanne cared about others in a way that was so uncommonly unselfish that you almost felt a bit ashamed when you examined your own core beliefs and values. For many, like myself, we were given a pretty high bar to aim for in our journey through this life.
Fortunately, Joanne found a great outlet for her giving personality: for 14 years, Joanne made a difference to the kids at the Bonsall Elementary School, near their home in Fallbrook, California. She was a writer, poet, member of the Bonsall Women’s Club, the Writer’s Workshop, and, most importantly, strengthened her faith at the North Coast Church.
Like most of her many friends, I only knew one Joanne: someone that was always willing to sit and talk about life’s ups and downs … or just share life stories – many being cycling related. Always with a heavy dose of humor, I might add.
Joanne always seemed to be at peace with her faith in God, and the things that truly matter in the short time we have on this planet. The positive impact that Joanne had in so many lives will be, in my humble opinion, her greatest legacy.
Joanne’s favorite time of year was Christmas. Her faith – combined with a giving personality – shined when the holiday season rolled around every year. Joanne had a way of knowing just the right gift to give someone – whether it be something to comfort a friend in time of need; or, in a more tangible way, the ‘perfect’ present to make someone smile at Christmas. In my case, as it was for so many years, the perfect gift usually had something to do with a Peanuts theme. (Pete never quite understood this, but Joanne and I understood the charm of a beagle named Snoopy.)
The last Christmas present I received from Joanne was a “Snoopy” coffee cup decorated in a holiday theme that said “Happiness is a friend named Rob”. It was one of the rare times I figured she got it wrong with a gift. Happiness in this world is the love and friendship that Joanne gave so freely to all.
On Wednesday, December 2, 2009, Joanne Penseyres, 65, went to her eternal home in the loving care of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To friends and family, 2009 will be remembered most for the loss of a very special friend. Joanne is survived by Pete, her loving husband of 44 years, her daughter Kristi, son in law Rich, granddaughters Kaitlyn and Karina.]]>
Maybe what keeps many of us in this sport, is the ability to push our limits every now and then … as well as learning from those efforts what we’re capable of in other parts of our life.
I’m more impressed by a ‘recreational’ rider that gives close to 100% in a hard, local century (even if it takes 6 or 7 hours) than a top-notch pro racer that gives only 75% in a Euro classic.
Andrew Gustafson is a rider that has faced two major crashes in the past couple of years – including one that featured a helicopter rider to the U.C.L.A. medical center after a face-off with a motorcycle (yes, ouch!). Just talking to Andrew about the huge number of broken bones, physical injuries, and hospital stay(s) hurts.
But you can tell that Andrew is going to be up and running (er, cycling) full strength in short order if his recent stay on Maui with us is any indication. He’s going to be cranking out (no pun intended) lots of double centuries in the years ahead – he has plenty of miles and years left to capture a few more triple challenge jerseys to add to his current collection; after all, he’s only 69.
There’s a saying that “it takes a long time to become young”, and Andrew proved this every day of our Maui Triple Challenge …]]>
The next time you visit
a resort destination
(like Maui), think about
buying your souvenirs
from a local charity group
that you feel
(in my case, I like to
visit the Maui Humane
Society while on the islands).
They often offer
great gift ideas (like t-shirts, caps,
books, posters, etc.
that have the ‘required’
Maui name on ’em).
You’ll also feel good
about contributing to a favorite
cause. Much better than a
plastic hula girl with ‘Maui’
plastered on the bottom, eh?