Alternative Road Bikes: The Only Bike You Need?

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

The Haanjo felt right at home anywhere we went

One of the coolest emerging categories from bike manufacturers these days are alternative road bikes. Descended from road bikes, alternative road bikes have evolved into a category of their own, and continue to be refined to help riders take road bikes to new places we could scarcely imagine a few years ago.
So what makes an alternative road bike?

  • Disc (or sometimes cantilever) brakes for better stopping performance
  • Higher bottom bracket for more ground clearance
  • Clearance for bigger tires
  • More upright riding position and longer wheel base
  • Frames tuned to be more flexible in the right places (like the seatstays) for improved comfort

 

Cyclocross Bikes

The OG alternative road bike. These bikes are designed for the discipline of cyclocross (read more about it here), but have since become some of the most popular bikes on the market. Why?

Because the ‘cross bike is basically a do everything bike. It might look like a road bike, but they have clearance for wider tires (usually up to a 38mm, versus a normal road bike’s 25mm max), a taller bottom bracket, and powerful cantilever or disc brakes These features allow CX bikes to go places most normal road bikes can’t, from off-road riding, to mountain bike trails, to fireroads. Additionally, ‘cross bikes have a geometry very similar to a racing road bike, so you can simply switch out the knobby tires for a pair of road tires, and you’ll have yourself a very capable road bike.

Examples: Fuji Altamira CX, Van Dessel AloominatorRidley X-Fire

Key Strength: Versatile race-ready platform

Best For: Cyclocross, road riding, limited trail riding

 

The Ridley X-Night is fine example of a cylcocross bike

The Ridley X-Night is fine example of a cylcocross bike

Gravel Bikes

This is a relatively new category, but a pretty exciting one. Similar to a cyclocross bike, gravel bikes are primarily designed to be ridden on gravel and fire roads. Like cyclocross bikes they usually feature disc brakes, a high bottom bracket and big tire clearance.

What sets a gravel bike apart though is the geometry. While most ‘cross bikes are pretty racey, Gravel Bikes usually have a more relaxed “endurance” type geometry with a taller head tube, sloping top tube, and longer wheel base for improved comfort over long distances. The head tube angle is also a little slacker, and the chainstays longer, to give you more stability on uneven surfaces.

Examples: GT Grade

Key Strength: Outstanding stability and handling on rough roads

Best For: Exploring off the beaten path, gravel racing

 

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

Adventure Bikes

This isn’t really a category…yet, but it’s one that includes some really exciting new bikes. These bikes aren’t really gravel bikes, nor cyclocross bikes, but they still incorporate a lot of the features we love, and are extremely capable.

Disc brakes, wide tire clearance, fender and rear rack mounts…these bikes aren’t really designed to do any one thing particularly brilliantly… but they are designed to do a lot of things pretty well. They’re at home on the MTB trail, on gravel roads, on the CX course, or even some light touring. They won’t do quite as well as a dedicated platform, but for the rider who dabbles in everything, it’s the perfect solution.

Examples: Diamondback Haanjo, Fuji Tread

Key Strength: Outright versatility

Best For: Someone who wants only one bike to do it all

Adventure awaits you aboard the Diamondback Haanjo

Adventure awaits you aboard the Diamondback Haanjo

New Bike Preview: 2015 GT Grade

One of the most exciting bikes of the year is the 2015 GT Grade gravel bike. This thing has been lighting up trade shows, magazine reviews, and “Best Of” lists since it was first announced. In fact, they’ve been in such high demand for test rides and reviews that even we hadn’t seen one in person until last week– and then it was a prototype demo model.

The 2015 GT Grade in it's element

The 2015 GT Grade in it’s element

For those of you who are seeing this bike for the first time, the Grade is a gravel bike that’s designed for going on-road, off-road, or anywhere in between. The carbon fiber frame has huge tire clearance and a super comfortable geometry, but also has some innovative features like Continuous Glass Fiber seatstays that almost like a suspension, and the triple triangle design for improved frame durability.

The first question we always get when we mention the Grade is “when does it come out?” We’ve even gotten that question on Facebook and Instagram apropos of nothing. So to vaguely answer your questions: soon, soon, terribly soon. Just be patient a little bit longer.

Until then, we took some tasty photos of the demo model Grade to whet your appetite for Enduroad adventures. And trust us, as soon as it’s in stock, we’ll let you all know.

*please note that this is a prototype demo model bike, and does not have the same equipment as the final retail model. Actually, it’s pretty close. But the retail model will have Shimano RS685 hydraulic mechanical levers, instead of the R785 Di2 hydraulic electronic system shown here.

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.

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