CX ’15: Ridley Cyclocross Bikes

We all love Ridley road bikes. You’d be hardpressed to find a faster bike than the Noah, or a bike that climbs better than the Helium. But what Ridley– and Belgium– is really known for are their cyclocross bikes. The carbon fiber Ridley X-Fire and X-Night are some of the most sought after CX bikes in the world, and even the aluminum X-Ride is still one of the best performing cyclocross bikes around.

Ridley X-Night 30

The choice of most of the world’s best cyclocross teams, and even used by the Lotto-Belisol profession road team for cobbled races, the Ridley X-Night 30 is one of the most advanced and fastest CX bikes out there. With a stiff, responsive carbon fiber frame with internal cable routing, a massive carbon fiber fork with internal disc brake cable routing, disc brakes, Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed drivetrain, an FSA ‘cross crankset, and 4ZA Cirrus deep section wheels, this is a straight up race machine that’s meant to go fast and put you on the top of the podium.

Ridley X-Fire 10

With a fast and lively racing set up, the Ridley X-Fire 10 is a great option for the serious racer who wants a top-level competition bike, but doesn’t mind hauling a few extra grams to save some cash. The Ridley X-Fire uses a more compliant 24-ton carbon lay up than the X-Night, but is still more than equal to anything else you’ll meet on the course. Like the X-Night, it’s built up with an Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed drivetrain, FSA ‘cross crankset, disc brakes, and deep section 4ZA Cirrus wheels. If you demand top performance from one of the most respected brands in the sport…and are look for a great value, it’s tough beat the Ridley X-Fire.

Ridley X-Ride 20

The Ridley X-Ride is the aluminum cousin of the X-Fire, but is still a serious, race-worthy bike in itself. The 7005 aluminum frame is super stiff, and much more durable than carbon fiber, and the 4ZA Oryx full carbon fork really helps to stiffen up the front end. Disc brakes, an all-new SRAM Rival 22 11-speed drivetrain, FSA ‘cross crankset, 4ZA Cirrus deep section wheels, and Clement Crusade PDX tires make the X-Ride one of the best values in a high-performance racing package around. If you’re looking for a first ‘cross bike, an value-orient upgrade, or an all-around bike for year round riding, the X-Ride is the way to go.

Check out our other CX ’15 articles

Eddie’s Shenandoah 100 Recap

eddie MTB

Eddie all smiles at the start. Smile…or practicing his suffer face? We’re still unsure.

Last weekend our coworker Eddie rode the Shenandoah Mountain 100 mountain bike race. When we first heard about his decision, we were a little envious and a little like “why would you do that?”. But, Performance being a supportive work environment when it comes to doing cool stuff on bikes, we went with it and gave him plenty of (possibly unsolicited) advice.

Last week we profiled his race prep, and now that the race is all done and dusted it’s time to check in with Eddie for a race recap.

Read more below to find out what worked for Eddie, what didn’t work so well for Eddie, and what you need to know it you’re thinking about doing an epic MTB race next year.

-HI Eddie. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt going into the race?

Going into the race, I felt good. I had my bike dialed, I knew my fitness was good, and felt like I got a lot of good information about the course. Everything worked out perfectly, aside from a series of flat tires (3 within the first 40 miles). Other than that, I felt great for the whole race. My finishing time was just over 10 hours, which I was totally happy with.

-What was your favorite part?

Aside from crossing the finish line, I think the highlight of the race was how nice and helpful everyone was. I got three flat tires and guys racing would stop to give me a tube and let me use their hand pump (mine fell out somewhere) with no hesitation. That was awesome how people were willing to stop and help out, even in the middle of a race. Everyone cheered you on and really kept morale high. Also, my girlfriend was volunteering at aid station 3 and after 45 miles, the PB&J she handed me was maybe the best I’ve ever had.

Eddie MTB 2

Eddie all smiles at the finish. Not sure if that’s a smile or a Chris Horner rictus grin.

-What was your least favorite part?

My least favorite part would be the first climb, the Briery Branch ascent. With so many people, your pace was pretty much determined by the person in front of you. I pretty much had to walk the whole thing because there was a line of people walking up the mountain and the pace was too slow to ride. It was frustrating, but the descent made it well worth it.

-What equipment choices worked well?

The biggest thing that worked for me was a last minute saddle swap before the race. I typically ride with a lightweight road saddle, but decided to trade it out in favor of a softer Fizik saddle which really made 10 hours on a bike much more comfortable. The e*Thirteen 40 tooth extended range cog (now available standard on some 2015 GT mountain bikes) was a life saver. I probably did 90% of all my climbing in that gear and was definitely happy to have had it, especially at about mile 90.

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog was a life-saver on the steep climbs

The e*thirteen 40T extended range cog was a life-saver on the steep climbs

-What equipment would you change next year?

Next year I would definitely go with a bigger rear tire. This year I was running a Racing Ralph 2.25”, but will definitely be running 2.35” tires front and rear next time. A bigger tire would help with traction on the climbs as well as some extra cushion on the descents. Also, while the 36 tooth chainring was manageable, I think a 34 or even a 32 would have made some of the singletrack climbing a bit easier.

A wider rear tire would definitely be a change for next year

A wider rear tire would definitely be a change for next year

-Would you do it again?

Absolutely! I have already started planning my set-up and strategy for next year.

-Any advice for someone thinking about doing it next year?

- Install new brake pads before the race. The descents are so long and fast that sometimes all you can do is hold the brakes and try to stay on the trail. Be ready for some fast descending. Everyone talks about the climbs, but the descents were just as tough.

- Don’t try to win the race in the first 15 miles. Pacing is key and having some energy left for the final climbs makes the race much more enjoyable.

- Use the aid stations to your advantage. They were spaced 15-20 miles apart and had everything you needed; food, maintenance, enthusiasm. I had heard that they were well stocked, so I limited the amount of food I carried with me and still got everything I needed.

Jeremiah Bishop may have won this race, but Eddie will be back next year. Oh yeah, and we'll see you again in a few weeks JB.

Jeremiah Bishop may have won this race, but Eddie will be back next year. Oh yeah, and we’ll be seeing you again in a few weeks JB.

Eddie’s 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race Prep

Eddy and his steed

Eddie and his steed

This fall some of our home office employees will be pushing their cycling skills to the limit. The first up is Eddie, a data analyst in our marketing department. Eddie is superfast on a mountain bike (or really just any kind of bike), and has been orienting his training and riding all year around completing the Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race this coming coming weekend.

Course profile for The Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race

Course profile for The Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race

The ride starts in Harrisonburg, VA (where another employee will attempt another big ride later in September). Shenandoah is one of the toughest mountain bike races on the East Coast. Covering a mix of dirt, trail, gravel and pavement, the Shenandoah 100 features a massive amount of climbing, tough terrain, and plenty of challenges.

Unfortunately for Eddie, nobody else in our office has done this ride before, so he’s had to figure out how to equip and provision himself on his own. We think he’s got it pretty well dialed in though.

Check out what he’ll be using for the ride.

 

The Bike

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Eddie’s heavily customized Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Expert is race ready and looking good

 

Frame:

Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Expert

Probably my favorite bike that I own, it is a super lightweight carbon hardtail with 29” wheels. It is an excellent cross country bike, light enough for both long climbs and nimble enough for fast, technical descents.

Eddy has certainly put the Overdrive Carbon Expert through it's paces

Eddie has certainly put the Overdrive Carbon Expert through it’s paces

Components/Drivetrain:

Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain with Race Face Next SL crank

Shimano’s XT disc brakes provide firm, consistent stopping power, even in wet conditions and XT drivetrain gives durable, consistent shifting. The clutch derailleur ensures that the chain will stay on even through the roughest descents. The Next SL crankset is light and strong, perfect for a light cross country race bike.

Shimano XT hydraulic brakes and 1x10 drivetrain

Shimano XT hydraulic brakes and 1×10 drivetrain

Raceface Next SL crank with Raceface Narrow Wide chainring

Raceface Next SL crank with Raceface Narrow Wide chainring

Gearing:

1×10 setup: 36 tooth Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring, 11-34 cassette with e*thirteen 40 tooth extended range cog

I swapped out the 17 tooth cog on my XT cassette for a 40 tooth e*thirteen extended range cog to widen my range of gears for both going up and down.

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog should give Eddy plenty of gearing for the steepest parts of the course

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog should give Eddie plenty of gearing for the steepest parts of the course

Wheels:

Easton EA70

These are great wheels. They are durable, light, and will provide plenty of comfort over the 100 mile ride.

Tires:

Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tubeless with Snake Skin protection, (2.35” front, 2.25” rear)

I’ll be putting on some fresh rubber for the race and Racing Ralphs are really the only XC tires that I run. They are light, fast, and provide plenty of traction through corners. The wider 2.35” front provides more traction in the corners and the thinner 2.25” rear helps reduce rolling resistance. The snakeskin provides extra protection for the back country trails at a minimal weight penalty. I run them tubeless with 19 PSI in the front and 20 PSI in the rear.

Easton EA70 wheels are a good mix of durability and light weight. The Racing Ralph tires provide plenty of traction.

Easton EA70 wheels are a good mix of durability and light weight. The Racing Ralph tires provide plenty of traction.

EQUIPMENT

Shoes:

Giro Privateer

They aren’t the lightest or the stiffest cross country race shoes, but they are incredibly comfortable and on a 100 mile race, comfort is king. They also provide enough traction for any sections, such as creeks or steep, wet switchbacks where walking is the best option.

The Giro Privateer provides all-day comfort on the bike...and while walking

The Giro Privateer provides all-day comfort on the bike…and while walking

Socks:

DeFeet Wooleator

For a 100 mile MTB race, wool socks are the only option. With creek crossings, possible rain, and sticky heat, the Wooleators will keep my feet dry and cool. I’m planning to pack a second pair in case I need to swap at the midway point.

DeFeet Wooleater socks will dry quickly and help prevent hot spots

DeFeet Wooleater socks will dry quickly and help prevent hot spots

Kit:

Pearl Izumi Elite Team – Performance Exclusive

This is easily the most comfortable kit I own, and as with shoes, comfort is king. The Performance Bike logos will also let me rep my team colors throughout the race.

Comfortable, breathable, and reps the team colors

Comfortable, breathable, and reps the team colors

Helmet:

Lazer Z1

Lightweight, comfortable and super ventilated, this helmet was made for climbing…so it should be in its element out there.

The Z1 is one of the best new helmets out there. To find out more, check out our review below.

The Z1 is one of the best new helmets out there. To find out more, check out our review below.

Read our review of the Z1 here

Sunglasses:

Scattante Exhale – with Clear Lenses

The glasses are super comfortable and the clear lenses provide plenty of trail visibility, even in rainy conditions. They also store comfortably in my helmet in case I decide to ride without them.

The Scattante Exhale glasses come with multiple lenses to suit your needs

The Scattante Exhale glasses come with multiple lenses to suit your needs

Tools:

-2 tubes

-Spin Doctor Rescue 16 Multi Tool

- Minipump

- Garmin Edge 810 GPS

The biggest concern will be flats, even with plenty of Stan’s Tire Sealant in my tires, so I’m packing two spare tubes. My Spin Doctor Rescue 16 provides all the tools I need for trail-side repairs including a chain breaker and hex wrenches ranging from 2mm to 8mm. The Garmin will help with pacing and planning as I’ll be able to see my distance and average speed throughout the race.

The Spin Doctor Rescue 16 tool has pretty much everything you need to get out of a jam

The Spin Doctor Rescue 16 tool has pretty much everything you need to get out of a jam

Food:

- Peanut butter, banana, bacon sandwich

- 2 sleeves caffeinated Clif Shot Bloks

- 1 Kramp Krusher salt chews

- 1 bottle of plain water

- 1 Bottle Water with Hammer Gel (2 parts water, 1 part Hammer Gel)

This will be my on-the bike food for the first 40 miles, but the course includes 6 aid stations stocked with plenty of food and water, so I’ll be able to restock and refuel throughout the race.

Mixed with water, Hammer Gel gives you all the energy you need for a long day in the saddle

Mixed with water, Hammer Gel gives you all the energy you need for a long day in the saddle

Drop Bags:

The race allows two one gallon zip lock drop bags to be sent to any checkpoints on the course. I’m going to go with just one, sent to the 75 mile station. The coffee will give me the extra kick I need to push through the last 25 miles. In case it rains, I want to be able to swap out for dry socks and gloves. Also, no one is allowed past the 75 mile mark after 4:20 PM unless they have lights, so just in case I’m running behind schedule, I’ll have a lightweight, super bright light to help see the course.

Poc Index Flow gloves will help give Eddy's hands and arms some relief after 75 miles of hard riding

Poc Index Flow gloves will help give Eddie’s hands and arms some relief after 75 miles of hard riding

 

CX ’15: How To Set Up Your Cyclocross Bike

durham_cross_230

One of the best ways to be fast, on any bike, is to be comfortable. When you’re comfortable on the bike you can pedal more efficiently and spend more time focusing on performance and less time squirming on the saddle or constantly changing hand position.

Setting up your cyclocross bike is pretty straight forward, but still a little bit different approach from your road bike.

 Handlebar Height

Most riders prefer to have their cyclocross bikes set up with the handlebars a little taller than on their road bikes. Being low and aerodynamic is less important in ‘cross because of the slower speeds.

Using stems of different lengths and drop angles allows you to customize the fit of your bike

Notice how the CX bike on top is set up with a taller stack and shorter reach than these road bikes, for more comfort and easier handling

 Bar Tape

Using thicker bar tape than on your road bike can help eliminate a lot of the jolts and jars that happen when riding your bike off-road.

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable


Saddle Position

To avoid back pain and limit the jarring impact of the remount, it can be helpful to have your saddle further forward than on your road bike. This will limit the amount of work your hamstrings have to do while slogging through the mud, and help limit back pain.

Wheels

No matter what braking system you use (cantilever or disc), choosing the right wheels is super important. One secret of many successful CX racers is using a deeper dish wheel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be carbon, but looking for a wheel with a more aero profile will help keep mud from glomming on to the rim.

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike


 Tires

Choose the right tires for the course conditions and your area. If it’s going to be hard and dry, you might be able to get away with a more minimal tread, but if it’s going to be muddy, go for something with plenty of knobs. If you run tubulars, make sure you pick a good intermediate, all-around tire.

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

 Chainrings

(this link goes to an MTB article…but it works for your ‘cross bike too)

One or two? The choice is up to you. Two chainrings give you more gearing options to suit different conditions, but running a single chainring eliminates weight and limits the number of possible mechanical failurs. But before making a decision, you may want to check out an online gear calculator and play around with different combinations to find the right one.

And remember, if you’re running a single chainring up front, you either need a single-ring specific chainring, which will have specially designed teeth, or a chain keeper.

One or two chainrings? It's up to you.

One or two chainrings? It’s up to you.


Gearing Options

We definitely recommend running an 11-28T cassette. Combined with a traditional 46/36 CX chainring combo or a 40T or 42T single ring should give you all the gearing options you need.

Getting the right gearing in the rear can make all the difference

Getting the right gearing in the rear can be one of your biggest decisions


Saddle

A lot of CX bikes come with road saddles, but this might not be the most comfortable for you. There’s nothing wrong with running a mountain bike saddle on your ‘cross bike for more comfort and padding.

Picking the right saddle can have a big impact on your race

Picking the right saddle can help prevent everything from saddle sores to lower back pain

5 Practical Upgrades For Your New Bike

When you think of upgrades, most of us think of expensive stuff like wheels and shifting components. While these are excellent upgrades, sometimes they aren’t the most crucial.

Here are 5 easy upgrades to make your bike more comfortable and improve it’s performance.

1. Saddle

Saddles are the most personal part of the bike. Every rider is built differently, and everyone has a different saddle shape that will fit them best. If you’re experiencing any discomfort with your bike’s stock saddle, try shopping around for one with a different shape. Before shopping, think about where it hurts and where you feel discomfort. You may need one with a center channel cut out, or a narrower or wider width.

Pro Tip: When you find the right saddle, you may also want to buy a second one to have on hand. We’re not trying to improve sales here, either—this is actual cyclist to cyclist advice. In a few years if you damage or wear out your saddle, you may find that your favorite model has discontinued or redesigned, and you’ll be out of luck if you need to replace it. Trust us, we just went through this and are still emotionally recovering.

To learn how to install your saddle, click here.

There are many saddle shapes, styles and fits out there. Experiment with a few to see which works for you.

There are many saddle shapes, styles and fits out there. Experiment with a few to see which works for you.

2. Stem

Most bikes come with either a 100mm or 110mm stem. For a lot of guys that might be a little too short, and for most women it might be a little too long. You might also want more rise or drop to your handlebars. Since stems come in a variety of rise angles and lengths, you can get the position that’s right for you. Plus, most stock stems are fairly heavy, so an upgrade will shed a few grams.

To learn how to install your stem, click here.

Using stems of different lengths and drop angles allows you to customize the fit of your bike

Using stems of different lengths and drop angles allows you to customize the fit of your bike

3. Tires

Bike tires are one of those hidden wonder upgrades. Because the tire is the interface between the bike and the ground, it’s worth it to spend some extra money for a good set. You may think that most tires are black, round, and maybe made of rubber, but there’s a whole lot more that goes into them. Upgrading your tires with a good folding bead, high TPI count tire with puncture protection can make your bike feel totally new.

To learn how to install new tires, click here.

On- or off-road, upgrading your tires can have a big impact on how your bike rides

On- or off-road, upgrading your tires can have a big impact on how your bike rides

4. Bar Tape / Grips

Nothing does more to freshen up a road or cyclocross bike, visually and feel-wise, than some fresh bar tape. Overtime foam bar tape compresses and loses its ability to cushion your hands and dampen vibration. Changing out your tape can help restore some comfort to your bike and help add a personal touch, thanks to the many colors available.

And the same goes for mountain/comfort bikes. The stock grips are meant to be functional, but might not be comfortable for everyone. A good pair of ergonomic grips can help improve your bike’s comfort and performance by correcting your hand position and alleviating pressure points.

To learn how to wrap your bars, click here.

Take a tip from the pro's, some new bar tape can help even an old bike feel (and look) new again

Take a tip from the pro’s, some new bar tape can help even an old bike feel (and look) new again

5. Pedals

Those plastic pedals that came with your bike? Yeah, those weren’t supplied as “forever” pedals, the manufacturer actually intended for them to be replaced. Even if you don’t ride clipless (in which case you’ve already changed out your pedals), you should still consider upgrading your pedals. Flat pedals with a wider base, steel or alloy body, and serviceable bearings will provide a more stable and rigid platform for your foot, helping to eliminate cramps and hot spots, and will be easier to service if they seize up or begin binding.

A good pair of platform pedals, like these pictured, can help make pedaling more comfortable

A good pair of platform pedals, like the ones pictured, can help make pedaling more comfortable

CX ’15 Preview #1: Van Dessel Aloominator

Smell that? That’s right… ‘cross is coming*. And if you don’t know what to smell for, it’s the scent of crisp fall air, mud, french fries (a.k.a. frites), tubular glue, embrocation, and post-race Belgian beer. While most of us may feel like summer just got here, many riders are already looking forward to crisp autumn days when they can ride their bikes around a muddy field while people ring cowbells and yell at them.

*If you’re not sure what cyclocross is or what all the fuss is about, check out our article here.

And to help get you even more pumped, we’ll be giving you some previews of the hottest new cyclocross bikes and technology for this upcoming season. Everything from Van Dessels that were handmade in Portland, Oregon U.S.A., to SRAM CX 1, to the newest high-tech Ridleys fresh in from Flanders.

van_dessel_aloominator

First up, we’re taking a look at the Van Dessel Aloominator.

Van Dessel is a small operation out of New Jersey, run by former racer (and real life Belgian) Edwin Bull. Like most guys who raced in Belgium, Edwin developed an undying love for cyclocross, which has seen him spend the last decade or so pursuing the ultimate CX machine. His earlier Gin and Trombones and Full Tilt Boogie bikes quickly become ‘cross classics, and to ride one was to experience ultimate performance.

The essence of what sets the Aloominator apart is the frame. Each and every Aloominator is made in Portland, Oregon—arguably the homeland of American cyclocross. Finding a production frame that’s made in the U.S. is a rarity these days, but it’s something that Van Dessel felt was important, and they’ve worked hard to make something special that performs well under the worst conditions, and that’s also affordable.

The Aloominator has a durable powdercoat finish so you don’t have to worry about chipping the paint, and comes equipped with an Easton EC90XD disc-brake fork. Of course it would be a shame to build up a Made in the U.S. of A. frame anything but the best parts, which is why the Aloominator comes equipped with FSA SL-K stem and seatpost, FSA Energy handlebar, FSA SL-K CX crankset, Prologo Scratch Pro saddle, and Shimano Ultegra 11-speed components.

Check out more in our gallery below, and check back soon to see more CX ’15 product previews.

Ridley In Yellow

Tony Gallopin's custom painted Ridley Helium SL celebrates his wearing of the Yellow Leaders Jersey

Tony Gallopin’s custom painted Ridley Helium SL celebrates his wearing of the Yellow Leaders Jersey

On behalf of Performance Bicycle, we’d like to congratulate Tony Gallopin and the entire Lotto-Belisol team for capturing the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France yesterday. After a hard day of riding, Gallopin was able to take the overall lead of the race from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Few professional riders will ever have the honor to earn the Yellow leader’s jersey at The Tour, and Gallopin definitely earned it with an amazing ride that saw him finish over 8 minutes ahead of most of the other riders.

It’s a huge accomplishment, and a career-defining moment for Gallopin.

To honor the occasion, Ridley painted up a special bike for Tony. Joachim Aerts, founder and CEO of Ridley, came into the office late on Sunday to personally select, prep, and paint a Ridley Helium SL in Ridley‘s new “retro” paint scheme.. They worked fast, and managed to hand-deliver the bike to the team to be built up for the start of the next stage of the race today (Monday, 14 July).

Check out his new bike below.

Shop for Bikes of the Tour

Shop for Bikes of the Tour

Want to learn more? Check out our articles below.

Ridden and Reviewed: Lazer Sports Z1 Helmet

The Z1 in action in Belgium

Testing the Z1 in Belgium

Back in April we got a chance to visit Lazer Sports at their headquarters in Antwerp, Belgium to check out their Lazer Z1 helmet. This brand-new helmet is designed to improve performance, enhance safety, and keep the rider cooler.

We first got a chance to try it out during the Ronde van Vlaanderen Sportif, and have been giving it a longer term test drive over the last few months in a variety of conditions.

About The Z1

When designing the Z1, Lazer created a whole new line of helmets, instead of just improving on previous models. While the helmet retains Lazer’s signature look and the Roll-Sys basket suspension system, it goes in a wholly new direction from previous helmets. Lazer has traditionally focused on making very lightweight helmets, but with the Z1 they looked at ways they could improve on safety and aerodynamics, while still retaining their fabled lightweight.

The biggest safety improvement is the T-Pro design. The T-Pro is an area of the front of the helmet that comes down further to better protect the temples in the event of a fall, and offer better side impact protection. In studying how cyclists fall when they crash, Lazer’s designers realized that the temples, one of the most vulnerable parts of the head, were under-protected by existing helmet designs.

The Z1 also has a redesigned vent layout that helps channel around the head to keep you cool, the Advanced Roll-Sys adjustment system, and an integrated airfoil wing to improve aerodynamics. The back of the helmet also functions as a “glasses garage” for Lazer-brand sunglasses.

The buckle is also compatible with Lazer’s Café Lock, which lets you use your helmet as a (very) temporary bike lock when you make your coffee stop.

 

Out Of The Box

The Z1 comes in three sizes (S, M, and L), and includes a removable aeroshell covering, which snaps on to cover the vents, offering better protection from the cold and rain, and improving aerodynamics. It also comes with a small plastic piece that inserts into the top of the helmet and protects the Roll-Sys adjustment mechanism from mud and grit—an essential for cyclocross season.

 

The Z1 is the lastest evolution in Lazer's line of helmets

The Z1 is the lastest evolution in Lazer’s line of helmets

The Fit

The Lazer Z1 helmet definitely has a more comfortable fit than previous Lazer helmets, and the new Advanced Roll-Sys adjustment system makes it incredibly easy to fine tune and adjust the helmet. Like previous Lazer helmets, however, the fit isn’t for everyone. The shape of the helmet is similar to Giro or Specialized, which means it should fit those with a slightly rounder head a little better. If you have a more oval-shaped head, you might want to look at a different model of helmet.

Lazer's designers hand sculpted the original helmet mold to ensure the perfect fit

Lazer’s designers hand sculpted the original helmet mold to ensure the perfect fit

The Ride

We initially used the Z1 in Belgium, but have also been able to test it here at our offices in North Carolina. Our first impression is that it’s probably one of the lightest helmets we’ve ever used. For the past few years we’ve been riding the Giro Aeon—one of the lightest helmets around, and the Lazer Z1 helmet feels about comparable on the head. It is also noticeably cooler than previous Lazer helmets we’ve tried, with excellent airflow even on the hottest summer days we’ve encountered yet. Sometimes even the lightest helmets can still feel suffocating on really hot, humid days, but the Z1 has the nice combination of being lightweight and having huge vents, which we find provide excellent cooling options.

Fortunately we haven’t had a chance to test the improved safety features of the Z1 yet, but on the head it definitely feels more secure, and like it provides much more coverage. Just looking at the helmet in the mirror, we can see that it covers more parts of the head, especially on the side, which gives us a lot of confidence in it’s ability to protect if the worst should happen. It actually comes down far enough that you can see parts of the helmet in your peripheral vision, which took a little bit of getting used to.

The Aeroshell definitely helped us stay warm in Belgium

The Aeroshell definitely helped us stay warm in Belgium

The removable aeroshell is a nice addition too, since it turns the Z1 into a four-season helmet. On some shorter, faster group rides where overheating hasn’t been much of an issue, we simply snap the shell on to close off the vents and get some free speed. The aeroshell also provided excellent protection in the colder, windier, rainier climes of Belgium, where it  helped keep our heads warm and dry. We’ll definitely be using it over the off-season. Be forewarned though, with the aeroshell covering on, there is basically no airflow through the helmet, and it heats up quickly. If it’s hot out, we’d recommend leaving it at home.

One very small niggle one of our testers did have with the helmet was glasses storage. He likes to take his glasses off while climbing or when it’s really hot, and in other helmets he’s usually able to tuck them neatly into the helmet vents for storage. The Z1 vents though are only designed to hold Lazer-brand sunglasses, so his shades won’t stay in the helmet.

 

The Verdict

The Lazer Z1  is one of our favorite new helmets that we’ve gotten to test, and certainly the most versatile. The improved comfort and safety features alone make it well worth it. The included aeroshell and Roll-Sys protection plate also really add to the value of the helmet by making it much more versatile. In one package you essentially get four different helmets: a lightweight summer/climbing helmet, an aero helmet, a winter helmet, and a ‘cross/MTB helmet. It’s an incredible value for the money, and we highly recommend it.

We saw this at Lazer's headquarters. No idea what it is, but we thought we should share it with the world.

This isn’t the Z1– in fact we have no idea what it is, but we thought we should share it with the world.

Team NetApp Endura Visits Fuji’s Home Office

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to visit the biggest one day bike race in the US, the Philly Cycling Classic, thanks to an invite from our friends at Fuji Bikes. We had a great time checking out the excitement of the race (especially the finish up the famed Manayunk Wall), but the highlight of the trip was a chance to visit the home office of Fuji Bikes (and their sister brands in the Advanced Sports International or ASI family: Kestrel, Breezer and SE Bikes) with the members of the NetApp team, after the race.

Members of Team NetApp posed for a photo with the Fuji Bikes team

Members of Team NetApp posed for a photo with the Fuji Bikes team, including CEO Pat Cunnane (on the right)

ASI moved to their current headquarters in northern Philadelphia, from New Jersey, in 2004 so that they could triple the size of their warehouse.We followed along as the members of Team NetApp got a chance to meet everyone at the ASI offices, especially the bike design team. We learned more about the product development process, from assessing the market and looking at past sales, to talking to customers, attending trade shows, talking to dealers – even reading every bicycle magazine and good old-fashioned research on the internet. It’s definitely an in-depth process! Just the design process for a new bike can take over a year, and it’s not uncommon for a bike to go from concept to delivery to market in 18 months to 2 years.

We also got to learn more about the ASI/Fuji culture – needless to say they are really into bikes! There is a full Fuji demo fleet in their warehouse so that any employee can check out any type of bike for a month. Even though they are located in Philadelphia, they’re also building a full cyclocross course on the grounds near their warehouse, along with some mountain bike trails. And remember the Norcom Straight triathlon/time trial bike? Norcom Road is a favorite stretch of test road just a short ride from their offices. Fuji is also a huge presence in the local cycling community, with one of their main focuses being the Cadence Cycling Foundation – a group that engages youth through the sport of cycling to help them grow into healthy, responsible, and confident adults.

One of the highlights of the tour was the chance for everyone at ASI to have lunch and chat with the members of the NetApp team, all-rounder Blaz Jarc from Slovenia, classics rider Ralf Matzka from Germany, Jonathan McEvoy from the UK (11th place finisher in Philly),  all-rounder Erick Rowsell from the UK, mountain specialist Frantisek Padour from the Czech Republic (who finished 12th in Philly), and Director Sportif Christian Pomer from Austria (a former pro cyclist himself). Fuji associates got the chance to pepper the members of Team NetApp with questions.

They described their Altamira racing bikes as a good quality all-around bike – light, stiff, and with good handling. The hardest race they’d ever done? Without a doubt, Paris Roubaix – they made it to the end, but the Arenberg cobble section was just super hard, since you go straight into it at a really high speed. They also compared Philly Cycling Classic to Europe and said that it was a different style. At Philly the racing was a lot more aggressive, and they were always fighting for position as it never settled down. In Europe, the racing starts hard, but then a break goes, it settles down, and it only gets really hard again at the end. But they loved the atmosphere on the Manayunk Wall (where they may, or may not, have received beer handups at the end of the race).

The team even talked a bit about how they got started in bike racing – most started in their early teens riding for development programs. In England, their academy system finds kids in grade schools and progresses them through their national Olympic training program – they were full time riders from an early age, but not pro until a few years ago.  They also spoke about the stagiare program – wherein a professional team takes on ‘cycling interns’ starting in August. Young riders are released from their U23 team and get what amounts to a try out for a pro team, for free. It’s a big step up from the lower level, and the riders are under a huge amount of pressure to make a good impression in a few months. They even spoke about what they do in their off time – other than ride bikes, they just like to take a few weeks off the bike and not think about racing at all!

It was a great visit with the ASI/Fuji team, and with Team NetApp – we’re excited to cheer for the team as they compete in the Tour de France in July! To get a little sense of what pro racing is like from inside the peloton, check out this video we put together from the Manayunk Wall at the Philly Cycling Classic:

Ridden and Reviewed: Sugoi RP Ice Jersey and Sugoi RP Bib Shorts

The Sugoi RS Ice jersey and RP bib shorts are excellent for hot days

The Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP bib shorts are excellent for hot days

With a Southern summer in full swing around our offices in North Carolina, we’re always looking for new ways to stay cool on our lunch rides. Riding in the heat of the day, when June temps can reach 95 with 90% humidity can really take it out of you, especially if you wear the wrong clothes.

While some of the new mesh climbing jerseys are great, on really sunny days we still want something that will keep us from getting a sunburn. So when the clothing guys showed us our new Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP bib shorts– available exclusively from Performance Bicycle– we figured we’d test it out to see if it actually works.

The racy pro-fit provides plenty of compression mixed with all-day comfort

The racy pro-fit provides plenty of compression mixed with all-day comfort

 The Jersey

The RS Ice jersey uses Icefil technology to reflect infared light and keep you cooler

The RP Ice jersey uses Icefil technology to reflect infared light and keep you cooler

The idea behind the jersey is that it uses Icefil technology that helps block thermal infared light (the kind that makes you feel hot) and wicks away sweat to speed evaporative cooling. It also has a Xylitol fabric treatment that generates a cooling effect when it comes into contact with moisture, helping to draw away some heat. Sugoi claims that it will keep you cooler, even though the jersey has significantly fewer mesh panels than comparable hot-weather jerseys.

The big thing we noticed about the jersey is how remarkably light it feels. In fact, it feels about as light as some breezy, sunburn-prone mesh jerseys we have. The light feeling goes a long way towards how cool the jersey feels on a hot day.

The day we took the jersey out was about 96 F with 89% humidity. It was the kind of day when you start feeling like an egg on a skillet the minute you walk outside. The RP Ice jersey was more than equal to the ride though. The first thing we noticed immediately was that the fabric didn’t feel like it was soaking up heat in the sun. Normally you can just feel a jersey getting hot, but the jersey felt fairly cool while just sitting in the sun waiting for everyone else in the ride to show up.

Active vent side panels help shed body heat that builds up inside the jersey

Where we really noticed the cooling effect was while riding. Usually our test day would have been an open-jersey ride, but we stayed pretty much zipped up during most of the ride (except for the long climb) without feeling like we were overheating or suffocating. While we did kind of miss feeling of airflow you get from some thinner jerseys, we found we didn’t really need it. The Sugoi jersey was plenty breathable, and wicked away sweat really well and dried very fast, so we didn’t get that wet towel feeling.

The jersey has a locking zipper, and back pockets that give you plenty of room to store tubes, tools, food and a phone.

The RP Ice jersey also features a pro-fit, which means it will be a tight, aerodynamic cut. Our tester found he probably could have gone down a jersey size as well, but that could vary depending on your body type. The body-hugging, contoured fit actually felt really nice, without the cloying, clingy feeling you sometimes get from jerseys that fit like this.

A big reflective stripe on the back helps you stay visible

A big reflective stripe on the back helps you stay visible

The Shorts

As great as jersey’s are, it’s the shorts that can really make or break a kit, since that’s the part actually contacting the saddle. The Sugoi RP shorts feature an excellent molded, multi-density chamois pad, which is perfect for longer rider with plenty of padding. It provided plenty of padding in all the right places, especially on the sit bones, which can sometimes be an issue—given our tester’s preference for minimally padded saddles.

The Sugoi RP shorts provide plenty of comfort and support during hard efforts and long days

The Sugoi RP shorts provide plenty of comfort and support during hard efforts and long days

The lycra is a little bit heavier than we were expecting, but actually breathes quite well. The material also provided plenty of compression, without feeling overly constrictive—it felt like it was giving our muscles support, which actually felt really great toward the end of our ride when we started to feel a little fatigued. The leg gripper has a really solid feel, and stayed in place no matter how much we sweated, even when our sunscreen started to run off.

The Verdict

The Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP shorts are definitely a go-to summer combo.

The Sugoi RP jersey, as far as cooling goes, is right up there with some of the best summer-weight jersey’s we’ve tried, with the added bonus that it provides a lot more sun protection. It’s definitely one a good one for hot, sunny days, when not just overheating, but getting sunburned can be an issue.

The shorts are very comfortable, with a good mix of compression and support, and a pretty solid (not literally) chamois. We found them to be pretty ideal for rides of any length– be it a short hour-long hammer ride where the compression can help prevent fatigue, or a longer weekend ride where the chamois can prevent soreness and keep you comfortable.

The Sugoi jersey and shorts are also available in a women’s version, available here.

The Sugoi RS Ice jersey and RP shorts will help you perform you best on hot days

The Sugoi RP Ice jersey and RP shorts will help you perform you best on hot days

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