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secondsummertours.com » 2016 » February

Monthly archive of February 2016




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 DSC_0246I 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.

koki pack


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.

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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).

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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.


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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.







Las Vegas Interbike 2015



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.

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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.

IMG_20150915_111939698Dirt Demo picture

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.

Breaking Away with replica Masi picture

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.

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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.


IMG_20150917_160648149Anti-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.

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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”.



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.

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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).

IMG_20151028_172805181Lazer with rear docking port for sunglasses

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.

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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.

Cycliq Fly6

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.


IMG_20151028_171520974The 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.

Muc-Off Bike Mat IMG_20151028_170623673

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.



IMG_20151028_172042623 IMG_20151028_172211796 IMG_20151028_172146915 IMG_20151028_172251727IMG_20151028_172057279

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.


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.

Garmin car detection device


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.


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.

Mio Fuse 3


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.