Warning: include_once(/home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/wp-load.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/blog/wp-content/plugins/spam-master/includes/settings/spam-master-admin-settings-license-trial.php on line 2

Warning: include_once(): Failed opening '/home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/wp-load.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/lib/php:/usr/local/php5/lib/pear') in /home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/blog/wp-content/plugins/spam-master/includes/settings/spam-master-admin-settings-license-trial.php on line 2

Warning: session_start(): Cannot send session cookie - headers already sent by (output started at /home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/blog/wp-content/plugins/spam-master/includes/settings/spam-master-admin-settings-license-trial.php:2) in /home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade/wordpress-automatic-upgrade.php on line 121

Warning: session_start(): Cannot send session cache limiter - headers already sent (output started at /home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/blog/wp-content/plugins/spam-master/includes/settings/spam-master-admin-settings-license-trial.php:2) in /home/robtem4/secondsummertours.com/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade/wordpress-automatic-upgrade.php on line 121
secondsummertours.com » 2014 » November

Monthly archive of November 2014

 
 

RECUMBENT AND TANDEM RIDER MAGAZINE

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Vegas Interbike Diaries

2014 Edition

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.

vegas picture

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 Good

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).lezyne

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

inflator

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.

Park tool

 

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.
IMG_3486IMG_3485IMG_3489
IMG_3465IMG_3464
 

“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.

 

key rack lockerniteize standniteize handlebar mountdoohickey

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.
IMG_3427IMG_3430

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.

koki pack

 

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.
IMG_3438revelate-35-1

 

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”.
velocity mount

 

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.
bolle

 

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.
IMG_3419IMG_3415IMG_3420

 

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
yurbuds

The Bad

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.
gloves

 

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.

The Ugly

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).
IMG_3364IMG_3357IMG_3370IMG_3367IMG_3363

 

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.