Throw Down: Electronic vs. Mechanical Shifting

mech-vs-elec

 

With SRAM finally getting ready to launch their long awaited electronic drivetrain system, all three major manufacturers will now offer electronic shifting. This got us thinking about how far these systems have come in just the last few years (never mind how far since Mavic Mektronic, if any of you guys remember that), and also wondering if electronic will ever fully replace mechanical shifting.

SRAM prototype units (or maybe full production, hard to tell since some units had clearly covered up logos) were spotted on the bikes of the Bissel Pro Cycling team at the Tour of California. SRAM is keeping such a tight lid on them that even Belgian superstar Tom Boonen and Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra were chased way when they came to investigate.

If the pro’s are racing them, then that means that they must be in the final stages of getting ready to launch. With the unveiling, SRAM will join Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS in the electronic drivetrain market. The race now is not to be first to market, but who can add new features and make the technology economical enough to appeal to every cyclist– but will this justify an upgrade for most riders?

We take a look at the pro’s and con’s of both electronic and mechanical shifting to see who comes out ahead when we looked at a few key features.

Click here to shop for Shimano Di2 Bikes
Click here to shop for Campagnolo EPS bikes
Click here to shop for all road bikes

 

Electronic shifting systems, once reserved for the highest-end race bikes, are starting to appear on more and more bikes every year, like this Fuji Gran Fondo with Ultegra Di2

1. Shifting Performance

Hands down electronic wins this one—especially when it comes to front shifting. We were skeptical at first too, but trust us, after one ride you’ll understand.

While the power and feel of mechanical shifting has been refined to an art-form these days, it’s just tough for cable-actuated spring mechanisms to match the power and precision of electronic computer-controlled servo motors.

Because the motors are so powerful, it’s now possible to shift the drivetrain, even while under load, without fear of damaging components (though it’s still possible to snap a chain). Many systems also include novel features, like Shimano’s add-on climbing and sprinting remotes, or Campagnolo’s ability to sweep the entire cassette with one shift.

Winner: Electronic

 

2. Ease of Maintenance

This one goes to mechanical. Electronic shifting is pretty straight forward to get adjusted. You simply use the shift levers as barrel adjusters, and once you have it set, you don’t have to worry about adjusting it again unless you switch bikes or crash.

Mechanical shifting on the other hand can be finicky to set up—especially with some of the newer 11-speed designs. It also requires fairly frequent adjusting since the springs and cables eventually lose tension.

The upshot though is that problems with mechanical shifting are very easy to diagnose, and seldom require anything more complicated than replacing a cable or some housing. It can seem complex, but it’s one of those things that after you’ve done it once, you kind of have it figured out.

Electronic shifting…not so much. Beyond fine tuning adjustment, any real issues with your components will require them to be serviced by a trained technician. Which is probably good, since not too many of us have the engineering expertise to a) realize what’s gone wrong, or b) even know where to begin to fix it.

Winner: Mechanical

 

Newer mechanical drivetrains, like the Ultegra 6800 found on the Ridley Fenix CR1, can be easier to maintain than most electronic systems

 

3. Reliability

Electronic. We know, we know. Its battery operated. But take it from us…most people will have to recharge their batteries maybe twice a year. And the battery will give you plenty of warning that it needs to be recharged—but in the meantime each charge will be good for about 1100 miles or more.  And besides… you remember to charge your laptop and your phone, so surely you can remember to charge your bike every now and again too.

But all that aside…in our experience we’ve had fewer of the weird quirks and random mid-ride issues with electronic than mechanical. We’ve never seen anyone drop a chain on an electronic system, and the automated front derailleur trim means that you can cross-chain without really having to worry about anything (not that you should worry about cross chaining anyway, it’s not as bad as it’s hyped up to be).

Plus, you don’t have to worry about snapping derailleur cables, having to fine tune barrel adjusters or any of that nonsense. It just works without any of the finicky-ness of mechanical, and seldom goes out of adjustment.

 Winner: Electronic

 

4. Compatibility

Draw. Once, many years ago in the dark ages, few frames were electronic compatible. And even if they were, you had to choose between a mechanical- or electronic-specific frame. So if you ended up upgrading, you needed to get a whole new bike. All that has changed now, and most frames are dual compatible.

Electronic shift systems still have some wonkiness with compatibility (10-speed 7970 Di2 can’t be used with 10-speed 6770 Di2 for example, and Super Record and Record EPS systems are not compatible with Athena), but these days so do mechanical systems. With the increasing complexity of 11-speed mechanical systems and redesigned front derailleurs, fewer mechanical groupsets are cross-compatible, even within brands.

Winner: Draw

 

Campagnolo’s EPS system, like the Campy Athena 11 EPS gruppo on this Kestrel RT-1000 bike, has the ability to shift the entire cassette in a single shift

 

5. Upgradability

Electronic. Obviously, the digital nature of these systems means that the possibilities are wide open. In a world of apps and smartphone integration, engineers are only just beginning to play with what electronic shifting systems can do. Currently Shimano offers the ability to custom program some features of Di2 systems, for instance to allow for customized shifting combos. But there’s even more in the pipeline. From systems that talk to your compatible Garmin or cycling computer and tell them what gear you’re in, how much battery is left and more, to API’s that integrate with power meters to automatically shift to maintain a consistent power output, there’s no telling what the future holds for electronic shifting.

Plus…if rumors are to be believed (and please don’t quote us on this…), it appears that SRAM’s new electronic drivetrain will be completely wireless, which only makes it even more upgradable. This effectively makes each of the levers and derailleurs a standalone computer, which operates solely on software. They could in theory be wirelessly updated in the future for more speeds or improved functionality, or whatever else the boys in Chicago decide to dream up.

Winner: Electronic

 

Verdict

Ultimately, choosing which drivetrain to select for your bike is a personal choice. At our offices and stores we have lots of folks on electronic shift systems…but we also have plenty who have opted to stay with mechanical for the time being.

Electronic shift systems are definitely more expensive, but the benefits are pretty clear. More powerful, precise, and dependable shifting performance, with almost unlimited upgrade potential.

For many though, the tactile feel and cost-benefit aspect of mechanical makes it a still worthy choice. Especially with new approaches to engineering things like front derailleurs and shift levers, some of the very best mechanical systems are beginning to approach the performance of electronic.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you. So tell us: for your next bike, which would you prefer? Tell us in the comments section.

Click here to shop for Shimano Di2 Bikes
Click here to shop for Campagnolo EPS bikes
Click here to shop for all road bikes

 

Skratch Labs Neutral Human Support at the Amgen Tour of California

Who hasn’t dreamed of having a support staff to feed you before, during, and after every bike ride? Our friends at Skratch Labs have turned that dream into reality, at least at the AMGEN Tour of California! In what marks a first for the cycling world, Skratch Labs will be supporting the human element of racing as the Official Hydration and Real Food Sponsor of the AMGEN Tour of California.

Skratch Labs will be directing their efforts toward supporting the actual humans involved in the race (both riders and staff) by providing real food and hydration products throughout the weeklong event. During each road stage Skratch will have a support car and moto inside the caravan to distribute needed items to riders on every team.

Chef Biju and his team will be cooking up delicious and nutritious recipes from The Feed Zone Cookbook every day from their mobile kitchen – everything is all natural and made from scratch (of course).

skratch_neutral_human_support_1

Tasty real food is cooked up daily for racers and support staff.

A Skratch Labs motorcycle and car will even deliver their healthy food options during the race. How would you like this nutrition delivery vehicle for your next ride?

skratch_neutral_human_support_2

Skratch Labs Neutral Human Support moto

Because when guys are racing this hard, they need some real food to recover:

Performance Bicycle Visits Ridley Bikes: Talking to Ridley Founder Joachim Aerts

ridley_factory_2

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Belgium to visit Ridley bikes was our opportunity to tour the factory and meet founder Joachim Aerts. Joachim had plenty of interesting stories to tell us about why he started Ridley, his work with pro teams, and what the Ridley design philosophy is.

Watch the video below to hear more about Ridley from the man himself:

Of course some of the more interesting tidbits about Ridley came not from the filmed interview, but during more casual conversations. Some of our favorite Ridley facts that didn’t make it into the video include:

  • Ridley got it’s name because Joachim loved the movie Alien. This is completely true. When he was starting the company, he was searching for a name that would be easy to pronounce for speakers of both Flemish and French (Belgium’s two official languages). His favorite movie at the time was Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. Scott was already taken, so he settled on Ridley.
  • Ridley is very much a family business. Joachim’s brother helped him get started in frame building, and his father is a regular fixture at the company, where he brings some old-school Flanders cycling knowledge, know-how and attitude to the halls of Ridley’s headquarters.
  • The Noah, Dean, Liz, and other Ridley models are named after Joachim’s children. Sadly, he does not have a child named Helium.
  • Ridley is a key partner in the soon-to-be-built Flanders Bike Valley. Bike Valley is a collaboration between the Flemish government, Ridley, Bio-Racer clothing, Lazer Helmets, two universities, and some composites manufacturing companies. The idea is that by pooling resources they can do more advanced and technical R&D than they could individually. The first project the group is undertaking is building an advanced wind tunnel in Ridley’s backyard. Literally. It’s being built in the empty lot behind their warehouse. And you thought the Noah was fast now…just wait a few years.

National Bike Month: Meet People for Bikes

people for bikes

As you may know, May is National Bike Month. To help celebrate and get the word out, we’ve had an opportunity to interview key people from some of the America’s largest bike advocacy organizations.

This week we were fortunate enough to get a few minutes with Tim Blumenthal of PeopleForBikes and ask him a few questions about his organization. 

tim_b

1.What’s the goal of your organization? 

The goal of PeopleForBikes is to make bike riding better for all Americans and get more people biking more often.

2. What projects are you working on currently?

We group our work into two basic areas: 1) Building Better Places to Ride; and 2) Building Political Power. Both are national programs.

We run our Green Lane Project to improve bike infrastructure in cities and large towns. We focus on building protected bike lanes that are physically separated from fast-moving cars and trucks and make bicycling safer and more appealing for everyone–especially new riders, families and older Americans. We also improve bike infrastructure (lanes, paths, singletrack and bike parks) by awarding grants to support their development. We’ve invested $10 million during the last decade in projects like this, as well as the local, state and national groups that help make them happen.

We’re working to build political power to support better places to ride. We’re focused on growing the PeopleForBikes individual supporter base–bicycling’s grassroots army. We currently have 800,000 Americans on board and we’re determined to increase this number to a million or more during 2014. We are becoming a political force: as more people join PeopleForBikes (it’s free), we are developing serious clout! We need your help.

The other part of our political strategy is our grasstops engagement program. We call it the PeopleForBikes Business Network. First, we engage bike business leaders (as well as leaders of businesses outside the bike industry) to share the stories of the good jobs they support, and importance of solid bike infrastructure to their continuing success. Then, we engage other societal leaders—not only business owners, but pro athletes, celebrities, developers—to publicly support and advocate for bicycling of all kinds. Our grasstops program focuses on elected officials, but we want everyone in America to appreciate all the great things that happen when people ride bikes.

Protected bike lanes are a major initiative for PeopleForBikes

Protected bike lanes are a major initiative for PeopleForBikes

3. How can I make cycling better in my community?

The most important thing you can do to make the cycling experience better in your community is ride predictably and respectfully—both on and off road. Stop at traffic lights and at stop signs. Signal your turns. Use a light and rear reflector if you ride after dark. Alert others when you’re about to pass them. Second, pay attention to the bike-related decisions of your town, city and county governments.  If leaders step up to support a great project, send them a short note of thanks or leave a phone message. If they fall short, don’t be afraid to ask them to do better. Be specific. Get involved with your local or state advocacy group: they will guide your efforts.

people for bikes 2

 4. How do you reach out to non-bike riders ?

We emphasize the benefits of bicycling to non-bike riders. For example, protected bike lanes in cities make traveling more predictable and safer for everyone—whether they’re driving, biking or walking. Bike paths, trails and lanes boost business—not only tourism, but often every-day sales at adjacent stores and restaurants, as people pedal by and (often) stop, as opposed to speeding through. Bike riding reduces road congestion and air pollution and improves health: everyone benefits from that.

PeopleForBikes has worked with municipalities all over the country to improve the visibility of bike riders

PeopleForBikes has worked with municipalities all over the country to improve the visibility of bike riders

At the end of the day, we believe that two things will make bicycling better for everyone: more places to ride that are safe, appealing, and close to home and work; and strong public support to create and maintain these places.

Introducing 2014 Pearl Izumi Performance Exclusives

pearl_logo

Well, it looks like the long winter is finally coming to a close, which is good news for all of us. We’ve been looking forward to getting out and riding more—and fortunately we’ve had the opportunity to test out some of the latest and greatest Pearl Izumi clothing and shoes—and we’re big fans of what we’ve gotten to experience so far.

So why Pearl Izumi? Most cyclists own at least one pair of shorts with the signature “iP” logo on the leg…and it’s for good reason. Pearl Izumi has made a name for themselves—both in the amateur and pro worlds—by making some of the most comfortable, dependable and best performing clothes on the market. With super comfortable chamois pads, lightweight jerseys that are perfect for hot days, and because they offer several different levels of gear for all types of riders, there’s usually something in Pearl’s fabric arsenal that will fit your needs and budget.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff.

This year we did some exciting work with Pearl Izumi’s custom division to make a few special pieces for Performance customers.

Pearl Izumi Elite LTD Jersey and Bib Shorts

For the folks that like to go a little on the faster side, new for this year is the Pearl Izumi Elite LTD bib shorts and jersey. These race-fit pieces feature Performance Team logos and colors, a next-to-skin aerodynamic fit, and maximum breathability.

Feature a distinctive Performance Team colorway, multi-density chamois pad and lightweight bib straps, the Pearl Izumi Elite LTD bib shorts are an excellent choice for long, hard rides

Full length zipper, custom Performance Team graphics and Direct Vent side panels make this jersey ideal for everything from racing to weekend rides

Pearl Izumi Select LTD Jersey and Shorts

For those who prefer a little more relaxed comfort, there’s the Pearl Izumi Select LTD jersey and shorts. These more relaxed pieces feature a club-rider fit that’s a little on the looser side, standard shorts instead of bib shorts, and Performance Team logos and colors for a kit that looks great pretty much anywhere.

Multi-panel construction, Performance Team graphics, and a comfortable supportive chamois pad help set the Pearl Izumi Select LTD shorts apart

Stand out from the group ride with the Pearl Izumi Select LTD jersey, featuring a 12″ zipper, Direct Vent panels and moisture wicking fabric

 Pearl Izumi Women’s Select LTD Jersey, Sleeveless Jersey, and Shorts

And rounding out the custom collection are three new women’s pieces. The women’s collection features the Women’s Select LTD short sleeve jersey, Select LTD sleeveless jersey, and the Select LTD shorts. These club-fit garments feature a more relaxed fit, with a focus on comfort. They’re printed with custom Performance Team graphics for a distinctive look, and can be mixed and matched depending on the weather.

Ride all day in comfort with the Pearl Izumi Women’s Select shorts, featuring the comfortable Women’s Tour chamois pad and Performance Team graphics

The Pearl Izumi Select LTD Women’s short sleeve jersey features a half-length zipper, light weight moisture wicking fabric and 3 pockets for storage

The Pearl Izumi Select LTD women’s sleeveless jersey is ideal for hot, humid summer days

Pearl Izumi PRO Leader Shoes

You might also know that Pearl Izumi makes more than just great clothing, right? Pearl Izumi also makes some of the most innovative shoes around. We had an opportunity to test out the Pearl Izumi PRO Leader shoes—developed with input from BMC Pro Cycling pro superstar Tejay Van Garderen (who designed the red color to match the team’s kit).

Made with a stiff, unidirectional carbon fiber sole, a supportive yet lightweight upper, and featuring a unique tongue-mounted BOA dial, these shoes are comfortable enough for long days, stiff enough for race day, and great looking pretty much any day.

On our test ride, we found the shoes to be among the most comfortable we’ve tried—thanks to the unique way the Pearl Izumi positioned the dial. Instead of trying to cinch down a series of straps, the single dial simply pulls the whole shoe snugly around your food, resulting in a comfortable, cradling feeling that was easy to adjust and didn’t cause any pinching or hotspots. The position didn’t do a great job of holding our heel in, but Pearl Izumi thought that as well. The heel of the shoe has a grippy, textured fabric that helps prevent your heel from coming out of the shoe, even when hammering in the drops. Speaking of which…the full uni-directional carbon fiber sole was plenty stiff, and we didn’t notice any flex, even when sprinting out of the saddle.

Lastly, we have to say that the look of the shoe is unlike anything out there. It’s understated, yet completely distinctive. When our tester first brought them home to try them out, the first words out of his wife’s mouth were: “Those are cycling shoes? Those actually look good.” Looks aren’t everything, obviously, but in a pair of shoes that feel this great, and have such a stiff sole, it’s just an icing on the cake.

We would note though that these shoes tend to run about a half small. Our tester normally wears a Sidi 44.5/Giro 44, and the 45 PRO Leader felt a little snug on his feet.

The Pearl Izumi PRO Leader shoe is one of the most innovative, comfortable designs on the market

Ready for Spring: 13 Point Safety Checklist

While we originally wrote this post for breaking out the bike after a winter hiatus, we think that this advice is great to follow year-round, even if you’ve been riding for months! You’ll be amazed at what you find if you give your bike a thorough once-over – so what do you look for?

Just follow our 13 Point Inspection checklist.

If you need some reference for where to look for parts on your bike, check out our handy Anatomy of a Bike guide.

 

1. Inspect frame & fork for damage.

Look for cracks or frame separation. Gently lift your front tire off of the ground and let it drop.  Listen for noise (beyond the sound of the chain bouncing).

Lift the front wheel and let the front wheel drop to the floor. If the frame is damaged, you'll hear it

Lift the front wheel and let the front wheel drop to the floor. If the frame is damaged, you’ll hear it


2. Inspect racks, fenders, child seats & baskets.

Make sure all nuts and bolts are securely fastened.

3. Inspect rims and spokes for wear, damage and that the wheel is true

Look for loose or missing spokes (loose  spokes will rattle when moved with your fingers).
Spin the wheel to see if it rolls smoothly.  If not take it to a professional.

Squeeze the spokes together to see if any are loose

Squeeze the spokes together to see if any are loose


4. Inspect tires for cuts, wear & damage.

Check the tires for cracks, dry spots, visible tire threads, cuts, visible tire casing, or debris in the rubber.

Deflate the tire slightly so you can pull it from side to side to look for wear or cuts

Deflate the tire slightly so you can pull it from side to side to look for wear or cuts


5. Test brake levers and brakes are tight & secure.

Squeeze the brakes and move your bike.  If the brakes are working your bike wheels should not roll.

Squeeze the brake levers and try to push the bike forward

Squeeze the brake levers and try to push the bike forward


6. Test headset for correct adjustment.

Squeeze the brakes and move your bike back and forth.  Look to see if the fork rocks where it inserts into the frame.

Click here to see how to adjust your headset

Pull the brake levers, brace the front wheel between your legs, and pull on the handlebars. Check to see if the steerer tube rocks inside of the headtube

Pull the brake levers, brace the front wheel between your legs, and pull on the handlebars. Check to see if the steerer tube rocks inside of the headtube


7. Test seat and seatpost are tight & secure.

Try to twist the seat side to side.  It should not move.
Click here to see how to adjust your seatpost

Try to twist the saddle and see if it moves

Try to twist the saddle and see if it moves


8. Test handlebar, stem, and pedals are tight & secure.

Try to twist your handlebar, while holding the front wheel securely.  It should not move side to side or up and down.
Click here to see how to adjust your stem

Use an allen wrench to ensure all the bolts are properly tightened

Use an allen wrench to ensure all the bolts are properly tightened


 

Use a hex wrench or pedal wrench to ensure your pedals are tight

Use a hex wrench or pedal wrench to ensure your pedals are tight


9. Inspect cables & housing for cracks, kinks, rust or fraying.

Click here to see how to install new cables

Inspect the cables and housing for worn spots, rusting or fraying

Inspect the cables and housing for worn spots, rusting or fraying


10. Inspect brakes for correct adjustment.

Your brakes should squeeze the rim at the same time.  If not, go and visit your favorite mechanic.

11. Inspect brake pads for wear.

Use the wear indicator marks on the pad to determine if the pads are still in good use. If you don’t see any, you can pick up some replacements here.

Check the brake pads to see if they are past the wear point

Check the brake pads to see if they are past the wear point


12. Inspect derailleurs for correct adjustment.

Take your bike for a short test spin or put it in the workstand and try to shift gears. Look to see if your bike skips gears, won’t shift to the selected gear or makes a rattling, skipping sound.

Click here to see how to adjust your rear derailleur

If your derailleur isn't shifting correctly, adjust the cable tension using the barrel adjuster

If your derailleur isn’t shifting correctly, adjust the cable tension using the barrel adjuster


13. Inflate tires to sidewall pressure.

Tires have a range of tires pressures written on the side wall that is a useful guide.  You should pump up your tires before every ride.
Click here to see how to inflate your tires

Need some new tubes? Stock up here.

Most tire manufacturers stamp the recommended PSI on the sidewall

Most tire manufacturers stamp the recommended PSI on the sidewall

Everything check out okay? Go pedal! 

To find out what essentials you should bring on your next ride, check out our article here.

National Bike Month: Meet the League of American Bicyclists

May is National Bike Month, a celebration of all things cycling, so it seemed like the perfect time to chat with our great cycling advocacy partners who work hard to make riding bikes better. Every week this month we will introduce you to a different group that is making a difference here in the US. First up is Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists.

League of American Bicyclists Logo

What’s the goal of your organization?

The mission of the League is to lead the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. We believe that bicycling brings people together, and that as more people ride life is better for everyone; communities are safer, stronger and better connected; and our nation is healthier, economically stronger, environmentally cleaner and more energy independent. We want everyone to enjoy the benefits and opportunities of bicycling. I’ve been with the organization for more than ten years, and I feel like our mission is more relevant and valuable now than ever. ( I can’t speak for the entire time since we were founded in 1880!)

League of American Bicyclists in DC

Advocating for cycling on the steps of the US Capitol

What projects are you working on currently?

Today, we aim to achieve those goals through advocacy, education, and promotion. We have a national advocacy presence in Washington DC where we work with Congress and the Federal agencies to ensure funding, policies and programs are in place to build a more bicycle-friendly America. We run the Bicycle Friendly Community (and Business, University and States) program that recognizes cities for their work but more importantly provides a roadmap or blueprint for becoming much more bike-friendly. On the education side, we run the only national certification program (with curricula and materials) for bike education experts — we currently have around 2,000 active League Cycling Instructors sharing their passion and knowledge for safe cycling with anyone that will listen!

National Bike Challenge

Events like National Bike Month, Bike to Work Day, and the National Bike Challenge fall into the promotion category along with the extraordinary volume and variety of rides that our 900+ affiliated local clubs and advocacy groups put on year-round. The National Bike Challenge has to be the most inspiring way of getting more people riding. Every year we are blown away by the stories of lives transformed by participation in the Challenge. We love it and hope you are signed up and part of the Challenge. And as if that weren’t enough, we are also actively engaged in promoting greater participation by women in bicycling, the bike movement, and the bike industry.

May is Bike Month

What actions can I take locally to make the experience of cycling better in my community?

In each of those areas, there are ways for individual cyclists and local organizations to plug in and take action. You can sign up for action alerts — both national and local “calls to action” when we need the voice of cyclists to be heard — or attend the National Bike Summit each March to be part of the advocacy team. We have scorecards you can use to do a quick analysis of your community or business to determine how bike-friendly they are; every BFC  and BFB application generates specific feedback — we encourage you to join your local advocacy group to get plugged in there. If you can’t stop talking about bikes and bike riding and safety…maybe you need to share that passion with others by becoming an instructor. If you aren’t quite ready for that, the classes those LCIs teach are full of great advice whatever your level of experience.

Having said all that, there are TWO really simple things you can do to make your community more bike friendly. Number one: ride your bike. Number two, write to your Mayor, County Executive or Council member and tell them you care about bicycling and want bicycling to be better. Throw in a couple of specific examples of improvements, and you are on the way!

First Look: 2014 Charge Cooker SS 29er Mountain Bike

When we unboxed the Charge Cooker SS mountain bike, everyone had something to say.

Mostly, folks wanted to start customizing it right away. Here were some of the initial reactions:

  • I want to turn it into a monster bike with drop bars!
  • You’ve got to find some chrome grips and bits to match that frame finish.
  • I could totally ride that to work.
  • No horizontal drop outs? OH! It has an eccentric bottom bracket. Nice.
  • I could always use another mountain bike. Do you need that right now? Can I have it?

Clearly, everyone was excited about the possibilities that the Cooker SS presented, but at first blush, it had plenty to offer right out of the box.

About the Frame

charge_cooker_ss_002

The 2014 Charge Cooker SS Mountain Bike

The first thing that we noticed was the matching frame and fork finish. The Tange steel-butted chromoly tubes feature a gorgeous, polished finish, an eccentric bottom bracket and stainless steel hardware. For some perspective, Tange steel is custom drawn and has a titanium-like feel: lively, comfortable and forgiving thanks to its road vibration dampening properties. It is formed using Tange’s 90 years of experience in manufacturing steel tubes. It has a high level of strength, responsiveness and stiffness. The Cooker SS fit, in conjuction with a more aggressive frame geometry and a wide, 9-degree sweptback flattop handlebar, translates into a body-forward, confident riding position to handle plenty of aggressive trail obstacles.

About the Drivetrain & Brakes

Charge chose versatile 32-tooth to 18-tooth cog gearing. The Truvativ E400 crankset features a chainguard for added chain security. It is easily customizable by adding your favorite 4-bolt ring or single-speed cog.

About Tires & Clearance

Like most 29ers today, the Cooker SS featured a set of hydraulic disc brakes with 180/160mm rotors. Given the lighter duties of a rigid single-speed bike, that is more power than will be required by most riders; a definite bonus in our minds.Finally, terrain can vary widely, depending on where you live, and where you love to ride. The Cooker SS comes with a great set of Maxxis Aspen tires. They are ideal for fast-and-furious trails, where low rolling resistance and less dig is required. However, if you prefer something beefier, the Cooker SS has plenty of tire clearance. Personally, we love the Forte Pisgah tires for their bite, durability and versatility.

Our Two Cents

In conclusion, if you’re in the market for an eye-catching single-speed 29er, the British designed 2014 Charge Cooker SS offers plenty of performance right out of the box, plus the ability to be customized to your hearts content.

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Good For Cyclists?

Google Self-Driving Car

Google Self-Driving car recognizes other road users, including cyclists.

In case you’ve missed it, tech giant Google has been working on computer controlled self-driving cars for a few years now, and, as you can see in the video below, they are closer to reality than you might think. Now we know what you’re thinking – this is all well and good for sharing the roads with other cars, but what about relatively small and less predictable cyclists and pedestrians? As cyclists we signal our intentions with hand signals or other gestures, and require much different speeds and distances to be passed safely.  Well, they’ve thought of all of that – their latest technology is smart enough to recognize the needs and behaviors of cyclists, and react accordingly. Check out the video for some of their latest test runs:

While this technology is still in its infancy, we’re excited about the possibilities. If they can work out all of the kinks, then the prospect of having computer-controlled self-driving cars is great news for cyclists. These cars will be programmed to follow the rules of the road without fail, and without distraction. A self-driving car won’t become impatient or take an unnecessary risk to pass, because it will know that a slight delay really won’t make a difference to the overall trip. Occupants of cars will be free to text away or play with the radio, while the car does all of the thinking for them to keep the roads safe for everyone to share and enjoy!

Wordless Wednesday

Mark jumping on a mountain bike

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