Top 4 Highlights from the 2015 Sea Otter Classic

sea_otter_Panorama1

Every year in April, the bike-riding world decamps to the friendly confines of the fabled Laguna Seca racetrack near Monterey, California for the unofficial kickoff to the cycling season that is the Sea Otter Classic. Part new gear show, part festival of cycling, part bike race – if it happens on 2 wheels, there’s a good chance that it will be happening at Sea Otter. Over 4 days, the infield and environs of Laguna Seca host 10,000 athletes and 65,000 fans of bicycles, plus countless purveyors of bikes and gear. Pro and amateur road, cyclocross, cross-country mountain bike, downhill mountain bike, and even dual slalom racing was on the agenda if you wanted to ride or just watch:

But the big draw for most of the folks in attendance is the chance to get up close and personal with the latest and greatest new bikes and gear. We walked countless miles around the massive expo to track down the most interesting new products and trends for 2015 – let us know in the comments which ones you want the most!

1. Updated Shimano XT and Electronic XTR Di2 Components

Shimano is always working on new and better versions of their components, and this year is no different with the introduction of the 8000 series XT drivetrain. XT is the workhorse of the Shimano MTB lineup, and the big news is a move to an 11-speed cassette. But everything about the group has been redesigned, from the shifters to the pedals. We’ll have a more in-depth look later, but XT has 1X, 2X and 3X crank options, along with a wide range 11-40T (or 11-42T for 1X11) rear cassette that fits on a standard freehub body.

And while not exactly brand new, XTR Di2 is still pretty rare, so it was interesting to see it up close and personal (even if the price tag is out of reach for most of us):

2. SRAM 1X road

SRAM‘s big reveal was all about doing more with less. They’ve taken everything that they learned from their XX1/Xo1 1×11 speed mountain bike and CX1 1×11 speed cyclocross drivetrain and applied it to road cycling. In fact they simply re-badged CX1 components as Force 1 (with added options for front chainring gearing) and then added a slightly heavier Rival 1 option below it. The rear (and only) derailleur features a clutch to eliminate chain slap and a straight parallelogram design with offset upper pulley (to accommodate a wide gear range). The mid-length model works with the 11-36 tooth cassette option, while the long-cage design is needed for the massive 10-42 tooth cassette (which also requires wheels with an XD driver body, which may mean a new set of wheels).

Up front, the chainrings feature the patented SRAM “narrow-wide” tooth design that keeps the chain in place without any retaining devices, and are available in the existing 38T, 40T, 42T, 44T, and 46T options, along with new 48T, 50T, 52T and 54T options for a more road-like feel (the 48T & 50T fit compact five-arm 110mm BCD spiders; 52T & 54T fit standard five-arm 130mm BCD spiders).

Sure, it’s not going to be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a simpler setup for your road bike and don’t mind a few compromises (or at least less flexibility) in terms of gearing range, then Force 1 or Rival 1 could be a great option for you. Crit racers, gravel riders, triathletes or people who just hate shifting their front derailleur could also find this new option to be just what they are looking for.

3. 27.5+ and 29+

Another big trend at Sea Otter (pun very much intended) was the prevalence of 27.5+ and 29+ mountain bikes. These mini-fat bikes, or maxi-mountain bikes, were visible at almost every mountain bike-inspired booth. So what exactly are these new wheel standards, and who are they for? We’ll get to the second part in a moment, but think of these as fat bikes for the masses. Whereas fat bikes roll on super-wide 26″ rims with massive 4″+ tires, these bikes roll on anything from 2.8″ to 3.5″ rubber (generally speaking). The wheels on 27.5+ mountain bikes end up measuring out to about the same diameter as 29er tires, albeit with a much wider footprint, while 29+ bikes are more agile fat bikes.

So who are these bikes for? Well, they are simply just fun trail bikes – you’ll pay a slight weight penalty over 27.5″/29″ mountain bikes, but you’ll get tons of traction back in return, along with confidence-inspiring tires that will roll over anything. We’re excited to see more of these bikes in action – especially the new lineup of Charge Cooker mountain bikes, which will be exclusively 27.5+ for the coming model year!

sea_otter_classic_27.5+_charge

4. New Gear

The final thing that grabbed our attention at Sea Otter was quite simply all the other new gear on display. Slick X-Sync chainring mounting from SRAM, MIPS technology in helmets from Smith, new shocks from RockShox and Fox, new carbohydrate additive Plus for Nuun, colorful parts from RaceFace, mini-GPS computers from Lezyne, bikepacking gear from Blackburn, new wheels from Easton (in many widths), new enduro helmets form Bell, enormous fat rims from HED, tasty new Rip van Wafels, aero helmets from Kask, and much, much more. If you get a chance to attend Sea Otter in person, don’t pass it up! It’s a fantastic event if you want to ride or just see what’s new in the world of cycling.

Ridden and Reviewed: Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike

Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike

Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike (we installed pedals and water bottle cage for our test rides)

One of our favorite bikes of 2014, Diamondback’s Haanjo is back and better than ever for 2015 – this time in 4 different flavors. The updated 2015 versions take the Haanjos we loved from last year and step everything up a notch. We’ve been lucky enough to have a Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike – 2015 in our test stable for a few months now, and it’s just a bike that feels right as soon as you hop on it. It will probably be one of the most versatile bikes you’ll ever own – perfect for everything from ‘cross racing to gravel grinding to touring to commuting to light trail riding.

The Ride

Diamondback designed this bike around their ‘Endurance Geometry’, which translates to a slacker head tube and longer wheelbase than a standard cyclocross bike. Then they layered on wide handlebars, fatter tires, and disc brakes for the ultimate in confidence and control. And that’s exactly the sensation that you get when you throw a leg over the Haanjo Trail.

This bike begs you to have fun when you go out for a ride – you can start out on the road, then veer off on that dirt road you just found, and even hit some single track on the way back. We even rode the Haanjo Trail on snow-covered trails, just because we couldn’t resist. Will this bike replace a dedicated skinny-tire road bike? Not exactly, but that’s not the goal with the Haanjo Trail. It’s a bike that lets you find whatever adventure comes your way on a ride: on-road, off-road or on your commute!

The Parts

The Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike – 2015 is equipped with top-end components all around – starting with rock-solid and dependable Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed shifting components mated to an FSA Gossamer cyclocross crankset with 46/36T chainrings so you have plenty of gearing options for pavement and trail (this cross gearing is really valuable off-road).

HED disc-brake wheels provide a lightweight, fast, and durable set of hoops that can take anything you throw at them. Braking is handled by TRP’s excellent Hy/Rd system, which uses a traditional mechanical cable to actuate a hydraulic brake cylinder, giving you the simplicity of mechanical brakes and the stopping power of hydraulics.

The Haanjo Trail‘s frame is fully butted 6061 T6 aluminum tubing, with a tapered, integrated head tube for better steering response, control, and road absorption. A Gravel Disc Performance full monocoque carbon fiber fork rounds out the package, and smooths your ride. Our one quibble with the package has to do with the Kenda Happy Medium Pro 700×35 tires – while we loved the high volume and smooth rolling of these tires, we wished for more tread when we took the bike off road. With that said, the tires are a great compromise if you are riding a wide variety of terrain, on and off road. But you may want to swap them for something more rugged if you are spending more time on trails (don’t worry, there is ample clearance for this).

The Other Haanjos

Now if the Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike – 2015 is not exactly what you are looking for, don’t give up on the Haanjo series just yet. The Diamondback Haanjo Comp Cyclocross Bike – 2015 takes the same DNA as the Haanjo Trail and outfits it with a bit more affordable parts.

Diamondback Haanjo Metro in action

Diamondback Haanjo Metro Plus in action

The Diamondback Haanjo Metro Plus Flat Bar City Bike – 2015 builds off of the same frame but ends up with an ultimate commuter package with swept-back handlebars and fenders. And finally the Diamondback Haanjo Flat Bar Cyclocross Bike – 2015 dials in the same go-anywhere mentality in a sport/fitness-oriented bike concept.

Diamondback has worked really hard this year to make sure that there is a Haanjo available for almost every type of rider – as long as you want to have a great time when you ride! Check out a video of the Diamondback Haanjo Trail Cyclocross Bike in action:

Ridden and Reviewed: Currie Tech iZip E-Bikes

Who wants to take an e-bike ramble to get BBQ? We saddled up on the last day of our test to go get some lunch.

Who wants to take an e-bike ramble to get BBQ? We saddled up on the last day of our test to go get some lunch.

A LITTLE ABOUT E-BIKES

E-bikes are kind of the hot new emerging technology of the bike world. They first emerged as a kind of in-between, living in the space between bicycle and motorscooter, but have since evolved into some pretty exciting vehicles in their own right. Here in the US, e-bikes are generally restricted by law to a max assisted speed of 20mph.

Not to be confused with electronic drivetrains, such as Di2 and EPS, which only use electronics to shift gears, e-bikes actually incorporate a propulsion motor into the hub of the wheel, and use an electrical motor to assist the rider while pedaling. The bikes usually do have a throttle mode to help you get things going, but generally the motor only assists you in the pedaling, it doesn’t do all the work for you. This makes e-bikes ideal for occasional riders, urban commuters, or those who don’t necessarily want a car, but want something more efficient than a standard bicycles for transportation.

I had a chance to test out the Currie E3 IZIP Path+ e-bike during bike to work week, and definitely put the bike through its paces, and my coworker did the same with the Currie IZIP E3 Zuma e-bike. These e-bikes definitely attracted a few looks from passers-by while we rode along at cruising speed, but read on below to find out how our test-rides worked out.

THE BIKES

Currie E3 IZIP Path+ e-bike is basically a standard city-style bike with a battery pack, electronics package and rear motor hub wheel. It has an 8-speed Shimano derailleur in the rear, which allows you to select how hard you want to pedal. Also upfront on the handlebars are a digital display that can display speed, distance traveled, battery charge remaining, and more. On the left hand, instead a front derailleur shifter, there is a digital control unit that lets you select the level of pedal assist, switch through the information screens, and turn the system on and off.

The bike comes with an included rear rack with an integrated battery pack.  It does weigh a fair amount—a bit over 50 pounds, depending on the size (our bike scale did actually go up that high, surprisingly), almost all of it in the battery and motor. Because of the weight, we found it necessary to keep the pedal assist on pretty much all the time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Currie IZIP E3 Zuma e-bike featured more of a beach cruiser style frame design, with an upright riding position and a battery integrated into the seat tube of the bike (so you barely even notice that it’s there). The E3 Zuma uses Currie’s 500 watt rear hub motor, mated to a Shimano 7-speed rear derailleur and a simple LED control unit mounted to the handlebar (which allows you to select the level of assist that you would like, along with pedal-assist or throttle-control mode).

Maxxis 26×2.3″ tires provided a comfortable ride while also giving the versatility to be able to tackle some light gravel or packed dirt paths. The swept-back handlebars will give you a nice and comfortable upright riding position and the Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes let us easily control speed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THE RIDE

While not really designed for the low-density rural area I live in, riding the Path+ e-bike was probably the most fun I’ve had on a bike in a long time. The Path+ e-bike is not your everyday townie bike, that’s for sure, and it takes some getting used to. But once I got the hang of riding it, I came to love to feeling of the gentle assist nudge from the rear wheel with every pedal stroke. It made running errands and getting places by bike way easier. The joke at my house is that we’re at least 20 minutes from anywhere—including work. The commute, the primary route I took the bike on, is about 12 miles each way and includes a long, grinding climb that is locally notoriously difficult even on a road bike.

Even riding into a stiff headwind feels delightful on an e-bike

Even riding into a stiff headwind feels like no big deal on an e-bike

The Path+ e-bike definitely made the commute much easier, and while I do love my commute, the Path+ e-bike introduced a level of enjoyment I haven’t felt since I moved to NC from Chicago years ago. On the mornings I rode the bike to work, instead of wearing my usual lycra, I just reached for the jeans and t-shirt I wear at work. It was a weird feeling to ride a bike in street clothes—something I admit I haven’t done in a long, long time—years even, but I really enjoyed it. I don’t think I broke a sweat at all, and even enjoyed a nice cup of coffee while riding. I was definitely still pedaling, but the motor took almost all of the strain out of it, so I arrived at work feeling refreshed instead of like I’d had a good workout. Even fully loaded with groceries, panniers, and everything needed to ride to work, the Path+ e-bike handled it all, and made even tough grocery runs feel fun, novel, and enjoyable.

I know that most people buy bikes because they want to work out, but that’s not really what the e-bikes were designed for. E-bikes are designed as a transportation solution for urban-dwellers and others who don’t feel they need- or want- a car to go everywhere. On these counts, it hits all the marks.

On a personal note: My wife and I are planning on moving into Chapel Hill proper (where the Performance offices are located) at the end of this year, and we kind of regret that we didn’t find the Path+ e-bike sooner. We bought a second car in October of last year to replace our college-era hoopty. Already having an SUV, we wanted a smaller, more efficient car for around-town and local trips. But after our test-week on the e-bike we both agreed that we may have reconsidered if we’d had a chance to try out the e-bike sooner—especially in light of our impending move. The Path+ e-bike would have easily solved many of the issues we were looking to address with a second car: reliable, powered transportation; an easy, fuel efficient around-town vehicle; and a fast way for my wife to get to work.

The e-bikes really excelled in around-town trips

The e-bikes really excelled in around-town trips

My coworker had a similar experience while test-riding the E3 Zuma e-bike – he used it every day to commute to work over a 5 mile mixed urban/rural route with a few tough hills, and he was able to tackle it with no problems in his regular work clothes. In fact he even shaved time off of his commute using the E3 Zuma e-bike on full pedal-assist mode, with much less perceived effort than his normal cyclocross commuter rig. He also left the bike in max-assist mode all the time – and it was remarkable how big a difference it made while climbing hills. Even when it didn’t feel that fast, once we looked at ride data later we could see that the motor-assist helped him keep a consistently high speed over tough climbs in town.

BATTERIES

Ah yes, what you’re all really wondering about. How long does the battery last? Good question. Like a car, it’s really going to depend on where you’re riding it and how you ride it. According to Currie, the Path+ e-bike should have gotten about 40 miles per charge. If you leave it on throttle mode and treat it like a scooter, you’re going to get less battery life. If you ride it with minimal pedal assist, you’ll get probably more than the advertised battery life.  Because of the distance and terrain I had to take the Path+ e-bike over to get to work, I got more like 25 miles per charge.  It was enough to get me to work and home again, but I had to recharge it every night. I also left it in max pedal assist, which probably didn’t help battery life either.

How much mileage you get out of your battery will really depend on where and how you ride it

How much mileage you get out of your battery will really depend on where and how you ride it

My coworker, who tested an E3 Zuma e-bike, actually got more than the 40 miles per charge—but he used his for more urban-style riding and rode it over shorter distances.

For most people, I don’t think battery life is going to be much of an issue. The on-board computer will give you plenty of warning that your battery is running low, just like your cell phone. If you just remember to charge it regularly, you won’t have any problems.

BBQ tastes better when you have to ride to get there

BBQ tastes better when you have to ride to get there. Though we didn’t quite fit in with the Harley bikers who also rode there…

VERDICT

E-bikes are definitely a fun, pragmatic machines, and something I find myself really wanting. Normally when I express a desire for a new bike, it leads to  eye-rolling and a family meeting, but on the Path+ e-bike my wife and I were much more in agreement. We both think e-bike would have been (when compared with a car) a very affordable, very practical solution to some of our transportation needs.

E-bikes are great for anyone in an urban area who wants a way to get around quickly, easily, and want to expand the capabilities of a normal bicycle (especially in a hilly area). But it’s also ideal for people who don’t ride as often, or want a bike that’s more about having fun and relaxing than pushing themselves to the limit.

Amazing machines and amazing food

This is what an ideal day on an e-bike should look like

But that’s just our take – what do you think about E-bikes?

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.

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.

Ridden and Reviewed: The Ridley Helium

The Ridley Helium is a stiff, fast and lightweight bike designed for climbing

The Ridley Helium is a stiff, fast and lightweight bike designed for climbing

Lighter Than Air

The Ridley Helium is part of the lightweight line of Ridley bikes. While the Helium SL claims top honors in Ridley’s “superlight” category, the Helium is still one of the lightest production frames available, and in fact was the basis for what became the SL. This tried and true chassis has been ridden to victory by riders from several different Pro Tour teams, and after spending a few days on it, it’s easy to see how.

So exactly where does the Helium fit into Ridley’s lineup? Like all of Ridley’s other bikes, the Helium originally grew out of a request from Ridley’s pro riders, who needed a lightweight frame that would make climbing during difficult mountain stages easier. While the Fenix is Ridley’s “go everywhere, do everything” bike, and the Noah is designed to be an ultra-stiff aero-wonder for the sprinters, the Helium was designed to shave every possible gram for the climbers.

But this isn’t to say the bike is only at home in the mountains…

All of Ridley's bikes are tested on the cobbles to make sure they meet the brand's own durability standards

All of Ridley’s bikes are tested on the cobbles to make sure they meet the brand’s own durability standards

Beyond the Mountains

When we visited Ridley in Belgium a few weeks ago, among the bikes we were given to test out were a pair of Heliums. While they weren’t spec’ed exactly the same as the Performance models, we got a pretty fair sense for how the Helium rode, and for two of our testers, it came to be the bike of choice for the Tour of Flanders sportif (the others chose the Fenix).

 While Ridley may bill the Helium as a climbers bike built for the mountains, we actually found that the bike was more than at home on the cobbled roads of Flanders—a realization that was backed up by the fact that several of the Lotto-Belisol riders chose to ride the pro-level Helium SL for the actual Tour of Flanders. Thanks to its super-thin seat stays and more traditional rounded tubing, we found the ride to be plenty compliant for even the toughest cobbled sections we encountered.

Even our test bikes, which were built up with some super-stiff, low spoke count carbon wheels, seemed to have almost no problems dealing with the cobbled roads and descents found on the sportif. At no point did we feel we were bouncing off the rocks or getting bucked all over the road. Not that the ride was exactly silky, but the Helium had the chops to take the hits. But this isn’t to say the Helium is a noodle either—it was plenty stiff enough to deliver the goods come smash time on the Circuit Zolder, where it was right at home in a paceline involving a few pro’s, local hardmen and excitable juniors. The bike just felt fast, responsive and lively.

We were able to follow sprints, break-aways and surges with aplomb, and when we stood up to go for the gusto, the bike instantly responded with plenty of forward speed.

The Helium was right at home on the flat and fast Zolder track

The Helium was right at home on the flat and fast Zolder track

Climbers Delight

Despite it’s all-arounder abilities, we have to say that the bike did truly come into it’s own on the climbs. We started the day of the Tour of Flanders sportif feeling more than a little anxious about going up the Koppenberg, the Steenbeekdreijs, the Kwarmont and the Paterberg—all legendary cobbled hills with brutal gradients that can surpass 20%, but eventually we came to almost look forward to them.

We’re not the worst climbers in the world, after all we do live in North Carolina, but aboard the Helium we felt almost delusionally gifted—enough so to even try to challenge a Trek Factory Racing pro we happened upon on the Kwarmont (it didn’t end well for us). Making the turns into the climbs made us feel almost giddy, because you really do get the sensation of floating uphill. The bike is very light, but it’s more than that. The geometry, the fork rake, and the blend of both stiffer and more compliant carbon fibers all seem to function together in an almost unquantifiable way to just make climbing feel easier and more natural.

This isn’t to say we weren’t suffering on the Paterberg at the 22% pitch, but we rarely felt we had to resort to standing to make it up the hills. The bike seemed to work with us to make the going easier, and that’s something we can always appreciate.

The Ridley Helium helped make climbing even the Paterberg feel easier and more natural

The Ridley Helium helped make climbing even the Paterberg feel easier and more natural

A More In-Depth Look

After riding the Helium for a few days, we got a chance to talk with Dirk, the lead product manager at Ridley about what went into making the Helium, and out of that conversation came a true insight into what the Ridley brand is all about. The Helium is if nothing else a pragmatic machine, built to solve problems with substance instead of style and marketing.

Neither the Helium nor the pro-level Helium SL are anywhere close to the lightest production frames available, but that’s not something that Ridley is really interested in making. Ridley believes that behind most of those other super-lightweight frames is a directive from a brand’s marketing department, not an actual benefit to the consumer. To make a sub-700 gram frame isn’t difficult, but to make a sub-700 gram frame that can actually be ridden is.

With the Helium series, Ridley looked at how cyclists actually ride. Pro’s, amateurs, weekend warriors, everyone. Then they talked with pro mechanics, materials engineers, designers—basically anybody who would ever have to work one—about what they wanted to see in a lightweight bike. The consensus was clear: it didn’t matter if it was the lightest bike on the market if it couldn’t survive a full season, or transfer all your power into the pedals. Where they arrived at was a frame that was just a few grams heavier than the competition, but that would stand up to the abuse of racing, training and everyday riding like nothing else in its class. In fact, the frames ended up being so dependable that the Lotto-Belisol pro’s just ride off the shelf bikes, painted up in team colors.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Verdict

The Helium is just a flat out great bike. It has a ride feel that combines so many different aspects into one bike, which is a hard act to follow. Stiff enough to sprint, comfortable enough for the cobbles, and purpose-built for climbing, this bike comes pretty close to being the total package.

The bike definitely has a race-tuned geometry, so if you’re looking for something a little more relaxed you might want to look at the Fenix, but if you want a go-fast machine that performs as a true all-around high performance bike, then the Helium is the way to go.

Introducing the Garmin Edge 1000 GPS

Garmin has stepped up their GPS game with the brand new Edge 1000 GPS. The color touchscreen Edge 1000 GPS bike computer puts in-ride challenges, via Garmin Connect segments with real-time results, and bike-specific navigation at your fingertips – all on a rugged, dual-orientation display with a large, high resolution 3.0″ full-color screen that is optimized for use with gloves and in the rain.

Garmin Edge 1000 GPS

Garmin Edge 1000 GPS has a bright 3.0″ display

Packed with lots of new features, the Edge 1000 GPS bike computer is still easy to use, and even adjusts the display automatically for low light areas, like shady spots and tunnels. You can transform your ride into a race by competing on Garmin Connect segments and view real-time results, including alerts for segment start and finish, and leaderboard rankings. Navigate the best cycling roads and explore new on-road and off-road routes with the preloaded Garmin Cycling Map and RoundTrip Routing function. Enter routes to specific Points of Interest, like your favorite restaurants, or just plug in a distance and let the Edge 1000 GPS pick a route for you!

Garmin Edge 1000 out-front mount

New out-front mount is included with the Garmin Edge 1000

The Edge 1000 GPS has connected features, like incoming calls, emails and text alerts from your iPhone 4S or later, social media sharing, sending/receiving courses, live tracking, and wireless uploads to Garmin Connect. It also provides advanced performance analysis, including integration with compatible Shimano Di2 electronic shifting systems. Pair your Edge 1000 GPS with an ANT+ heart rate monitor, speed sensor, cadence sensor or compatible power meter for a finely tuned analysis of your ride.

Order your Garmin Edge 1000 GPS today – either the Garmin Edge 1000 GPS or the Garmin Edge 100 GPS Bundle, which includes a heart rate monitor strap and speed/cadence sensor.

Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar Road Bike

It’s not everyday that the most exciting bike in our offices turns out to be a flatbar road bike. Now, we don’t mean any disrespect…flatbar road bikes are fun to ride, comfortable and offer plenty of advantages… but they usually aren’t the bikes that everyone in the office crowds around to see. That is until the Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar road bike showed up.

Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar Road Bike

Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar Road Bike

First off, lets start with that paint job. Wow. Between the amazing job they did on the Podium series and now this, we’d say that Diamondback’s graphics department is knocking it out of the park right now. With the subtle, nuanced paint job, pops of color, and thoughtfully designed graphics, this is a bike that will definitely turn heads out on the road. Or outside your garage. Or parked outside the coffee shop. Pretty much anywhere. And that frame isn’t all just pretty paint either. With the Interval Carbon, the true beauty lies in the details. The Interval Carbon is built around a high performance, full carbon frame with a nice, relaxed sloping geometry that’s easy on the shoulders and back, but is definitely stiff and responsive enough to have some get up and go if you’re so inclined. But take a look at the frame around the stem…see the top tube junction scoops down into the head tube? That’s a feature normally found on high-end time trial and aero road bikes to decrease the aerodynamic profile of the bike. And lets look at that fork, it looks shockingly like a time trial fork. With it’s narrow profile and a sculpted fairing that helps eliminate drag space with the down tube. But it also includes disc mounts. And fender braze-ons. The bike also has internal cable routing, and is compatible with both mechanical and electronic groupsets.

One of the most distinctive elements of the frame is the recessed head tube area

One of the most distinctive elements of the frame is the recessed head tube area

This is a bike that truly marries performance and comfort in the best possible way. Out of the box it’s equipped with a set of flat handlebars, Shimano Tiagra 10-speed trigger shifters and derailleurs and a set of hydraulic disc brakes. This gives you plenty of gearing and powerful stopping power to get around on any roads. Nice, big tire clearance lets you run some fairly large volume tires, and still gives you room for fenders. There is also a set of rack mounts in the back, if you’re the type that prefers to put your stuff on the bike instead of your back. The really intriguing thing to us though is how versatile this bike is. We took it out for a quick spin around the parking lot, and were really surprised at not only how fun it was ride, but also how responsive and lively it felt. This is a bike that responds to rider input, both in the pedals and the handlebars.

With a little bit of technical know-how, a rider could easily have multiple road bikes in the Diamondback Interval Carbon. Want to do a charity ride or just get out for some exercise on the weekend? Roll it out of the garage and you’ll have a comfortable bike that will go as fast as you want it to. Commuting or cruising around town? Throw a rack on it, some fenders and you have a super comfortable, practical bike for getting around. Doing a fast ride or even racing? Replace the flat bar and trigger shifters with some drop bars and Shimano STI levers, and you would have one sweet carbon fiber disc-brake road bike. If you’re looking for a bike that delivers the very best of all worlds, with unmatched performance, versatility, and flexibility, we would definitely recommend the Diamondback Interval Carbon flatbar road bike.

Product Profile: Nuun Active Hydration

nuun active hydration

You may have seen one of the tubes of Nuun active hydration (pronounced “Noon”) in one of our local Performance Bicycle stores and wondered what was up with these tiny tabs that you drop into your water bottle. Nuun was originally the brainchild of a professor from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. An avid cyclist, he longed for a lightweight, easy to use hydration method that didn’t involve a sticky high-calorie mess. His research led to the creation of the sugarless, dissolvable, and portable tablet called Nuun – separating electrolyte replacement from carbohydrates. You get the electrolytes your body needs during a hard ride, without the sugars or carbohydrates that can cause stomach upset or inhibit absorption.

Nuun Active Hydration

Nuun Active Hydration Drink Tablets

Nuun Active Hydration Drink Tablets

The original Nuun Active Hydration drink tabs are portable, taste great and deliver a fast-absorbing electrolyte blend without the sugar or waste of bottled sport drinks. Just pop out a Nuun tablet from the tube, drop it in your water bottle, toss the tube in your jersey pocket and you’re ready to go. It also contains 4 essential electrolytes that when combined with water, give you optimal and balanced hydration — sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Plus the refreshing flavor with a bit of fizz reminds you to keep drinking.

Nuun All Day Hydration

Nuun All Day Natural Hydration Drink Tablets

Nuun All Day Natural Hydration Drink Tablets

Nuun All Day Hydration drink tablets are a vitamin enhanced formula to help you stay hydrated throughout the day. They’ll keep you healthy, energized and focused, with a crisp, refreshing flavor that goes down easy. With zero sugar, all natural ingredients, and under 8 calories per serving, you can add more water to your daily routine with Nuun All Day.

Nuun Energy

Nuun Energy

New Nuun Energy tablets

The newest member of the Nuun family is Nuun Energy drink tablets. Nuun Energy takes their essential electrolyte mix and elevates it with a caffeine boost, and energizing B Vitamins. There is still no sugar, just the same light and refreshing Nuun flavors with the electrolytes you need to make the most of your water, but enhanced with B Vitamins to turn carbohydrates into accessible fuel and caffeine to energize your mind and body without the crash.

You can buy Nuun online at PerformanceBike.com and in your local Performance Bicycle store.

 

Check out our Learning Center for more info from our Advanced Guide to Hydration.

The Fuji Altamira SL

The Fuji Altamira SL is one amazing bike

The Fuji Altamira SL is one amazing bike

We’ve always really liked the Fuji Altamira. The blend of race-winning performance, high tech construction, and a geometry that you can ride all day have made it a staple for road riders around the office.

We were really excited though when we learned that our friend and coworker Jeff decided to get the Fuji Altamira SL. While all of the Altamira’s are fine bikes, the engineers at Fuji made the SL their special project—and pulled out all the stops to make it as light as they possibly could. When Jeff unboxed his bike and threw it on the scale, it turned out to be so light that it was not UCI/USCF legal to race. His size large bike, fully built up, weighed in at an astonishing 13.6 pounds—about 2 full pounds lighter than any of the other carbon-everything super steeds around the office.

When we picked it up to check it out, we almost felt like we were going to accidentally throw the thing through the ceiling.

So how did they get there? The Fuji Altamira SL is built around the same High Modulus, High Compaction C15 carbon fiber frame as the other high-end Altamiras, but where things get interesting is in the component choices. Full carbon fiber Oval Concepts handlebars, stem, and seatpost offer some serious weight savings over traditional alloy components, while the SRAM Red 22 groupset is the lightest component set available, saving over 200 grams versus Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 and about 110 grams over Campagnolo Super Record Titanium. But what really helps this bike fly up the hills are the Oval Concepts 970 full carbon fiber tubular wheels. Weighing in at only about 1100 grams, these wheels are almost a full pound lighter than a pair of carbon clincher wheels.

Jeff customized his build with a Fizik Antares saddle (the shape of the included Oval 970 full carbon saddle just didn’t work for him, but it’s a fine saddle in and of itself) and a set of Speedplay pedals.

This is one sweet ride, and we’re insanely jealous of his beautiful, welter-weight bike. If you’re looking for a machine that can get you up and over just about any sized hill in your path, then the Fuji Altamira SL is for you, and available at Performancebike.com.

To learn more about the Fuji Altamira line of bikes, check out our article.

 

To see more detailed pictures, check out the gallery below.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 200 other followers

%d bloggers like this: