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.

5 Things We Can’t Wait For In 2015

2015

1. SRAM Electronic, New Drivetrain Players

Making a return from last year’s list: SRAM electronic drivetrains. This year we made the switch to electronic drivetrains on our personal bikes—with Campagnolo Record EPS and Shimano Ultegra Di2, respectively. We couldn’t be happier, but are increasingly intrigued by SRAM’s near-mythical wireless electronic shifting system. It’s said to be introduced in 2015, and we’re definitely looking forward to see how it stacks up against the more traditional wired systems.

2015 is also rumored to see the introduction of an FSA electronic drivetrain, and some sort of drivetrain from Rotor (fabled Spanish maker of aluminum cranks, power meters, and Q-Rings oval-shaped chainrings), although whether it will be mechanical or electronic is still unknown. This will give the drivetrain market its first real shake up since 2006 when SRAM introduced their Force groupset.

 

2. New Helmets From Performance

2015 will see a raft of new helmet brands and models hitting our proverbial and literal shelves. We can’t tell you exactly what they are yet, but we can say that they grace the heads of some today’s best professional racers. Also coming soon will be the Smith Overtake—which we’re super pumped about.

 

Here's a small hint...

Here’s a small hint…

 

3. Shimano XTR M9050 Di2

Di2 on a mountain bike? Sure, why not. Electronic shifting systems have already more than proved themselves on the road, so it’s about time that they made the switch to the trails. We got to take a quick peak at it at some of the trade shows and it looked mighty impressive. Shimano XTR is already arguably one of the finest mountain bike components groupsets available, so Di2 should only make it that much better.

The new XTR 9050 Di2 looks pretty amazing

The new XTR 9050 Di2 looks pretty amazing

 

4. Performance Custom Wheels

A long time ago, in another building far, far away, Performance was known as a one-stop shop for custom wheels. But while the wheel building machine in our warehouse has long since been shut down, we’ve never stopped thinking about the perfect hoops. So over the course of the past year we got to working on how we could start making the wheels we really want to ride, and providing them to customers at a great value.

In 2015 we’re excited to announce that we’ll be returning to the custom-built wheel game. We’ve curated a carefully selected wheel collection, and carefully matched up what we think are some perfect rim/hub/spoke combinations. The result are some unique and exciting wheels from Stan’s, Shimano, and Reynolds, custom-built only for Performance Bicycle.

 

New custom-built wheels, like these Shimano Ultegra hubs to Mavic Open Pro rims, will be arriving throughout 2015

New custom-built wheels, like these Shimano Ultegra hubs to Mavic Open Pro rims, will be arriving throughout 2015

 

5. New Clothing Offerings

It’s not just wheels that we gave some serious thought to this year. Clothing was also high on our agenda—more specifically clothes for those rides that are more about the destination than the ride itself (think riding around town, touring, bike camping, etc…).

We’ve been hard at work designing, picking out fabrics, and testing and are pretty pleased with what we came up with. We can’t show them to you just yet, but keep an eye out around February.

We can't show you too much...but here's a sneak peak of some new clothes in the works

We can’t show you too much…but here’s a sneak peak of some new clothes in the works

Performance Visits The Telenet-Fidea Service Course

CX star Nils, team manager Karen, and team owner Hans

CX star Niels Wubben, team manager Karen, and team owner Hans

During our visit to Belgium earlier this year, we got to take a trip to the Telenet-Fidea pro cyclocross team service course with the guys from Ridley. It was by far probably the most interesting experience we had in Belgium.

Let’s start by saying ‘cross is to Beligum what football is to America. The country goes crazy for some CX racing, and and Telenet-Fidea is one of the most popular teams in Belgium, and has consistently generated some of the sport’s biggest stars, as well as National and World Champions.

Telenet-Fidea is own by a guy named Hans, and Hans is a total boss. Not only did he spend over an hour discussing everything from his opinion of American food to who the next CX champ is going to be, but he also gave us a personal tour of the service course.

Hans owns an asbestos removal business, and runs the Telenet team out of the same office. The office garage is divided into two parts: one holds all the asbestos removal supplies, trucks and so one; the other houses the Telenet-Fidea team service course, Hans’s huge collection of cycling memorabilia, his motorcycle collectibles, and his Ferrari. Yes, you read that correctly. While we were there Niels Wubben just kind of showed up to hang out for a bit, we saw plenty of bikes, and Hans gave us some awesome yellow TF Team mittens.

So, without further ado, we present The Performance Visit To The Telenet-Fidea Service Course.

 

FIND A GREAT SELECTION OF RIDLEY BIKES FOR ROAD OR ‘CROSS

 

 THE SERVICE COURSE

It’s amazing what fits into a garage in an office park. Aside from all the equipment of a home-improvement business, there’s also plenty of bikes, wheels, clothing and equipment.

 

HANS’S COOL STUFF

As if having a service course in your garage isn’t cool enough, Hans has gone one step further and transformed it into the ultimate man-cave. Complete with Ferrari.

 

PAYING THE BILLS

Owning a cycling team is expensive. Hans pays the bills by removing asbestos.

 

FIND A GREAT SELECTION OF RIDLEY BIKES FOR ROAD OR ‘CROSS

 

See more about our trip to Belgium Here

Throw Down: Electronic vs. Mechanical Shifting

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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

 

What Would You Do With a $4000 Shopping Spree at Performance Bicycle?

If you are anything like us, then you can’t stop daydreaming about what you’d get if someone gave you a blank check to update your cycling gear. If you win the $4000 Shopping Spree at Performance you’ll get your chance! One lucky winner will get $4000 in Performance Gift Cards to spend on whatever they would like from PerformanceBike.com or one of our local stores. To get you started with some ideas for what to get if you win, we surveyed a few coworkers here at our home office for what they would get if they won.

Mark – one of our product developers:

Mark's $4000 mountain bike selections

Mark’s $4000 all-mountain selections

Mark wanted to upgrade his all-mountain ride, so he went with a Devinci mountain bike along with a few select upgrades to round out the package: Devinci Troy XP 27.5″ Mountain Bike – 2014Thomson Elite Dropper SeatpostRace Face SixC Carbon Riser HandlebarGiro Gauge MTB ShoesSmith Pivlock Overdrive Multi-Lens Eyewear 2014.

Eddie – analyst on our Marketing team:

Eddie's ultimate mountain bike upgrade selections

Eddie’s ultimate mountain bike upgrade selections

Eddie wants to update his mountain bike into the ultimate race-ready rocket, so he picked a sweet upgrade kit: SRAM XX1 Mountain 11-Speed Mountain Bike KitSRAM XX Front Disc BrakeSRAM XX Rear Disc BrakeSRAM 29″ Rise 60 Carbon Mountain Bike Front WheelSRAM 29″ Rise 60 Mountain Bike Rear Wheel – XD Driver

Eric – Merchant Assistant:

Eric's road bike-centric selections

Eric’s road bike-centric selections

Eric is all about going fast on his road bike, so he picked a selection of aero & power upgrades: PowerTap G3 SES 3.4 Carbon Tubular Shimano Wheelset, a pair of Vittoria Corsa CX III OE Tubular Road TiresGarmin Edge 510 GPS BundleLouis Garneau Course Road HelmetThera-Roll Textured Therapy Foam Roller, and a Luxe Bamboo Go! Towel.

Alicia – Clothing Product Developer:

Alicia's mountain bike, home shop & road training upgrades

Alicia’s mountain bike, home shop & road training upgrades

Alicia wanted to upgrade her mountain bike & the gear to go with it, outfit her dream home workshop, plus get a road bike for training: Park Tool PK-65 Professional Tool KitPark Tool PRS-25 Team Issue Work StandFox 34 Float 29 140 FIT CTD Suspension Fork with Trail Adjust 2014Mavic Crossroc 29 WTS Mountain WheelsetGiro Xar MTB HelmetSidi Women’s Dominator Fit MTB ShoesDakine Women’s Siren ShortsDakine Women’s Juniper Short Sleeve JerseyDakine Women’s Sentinel Gloves, and a Schwinn Fastback 3 Women’s Road Bike – 2014.

Just remember that you can’t win if you don’t ENTER NOW on our Facebook page – contest ends on 5/4/14.

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.

Diamondback Podium Optum Pro Cycling Team Edition Road Bike

Painted in team livery colors, hung with SRAM Red 22 and rolling on HED wheels, this is one serious machine

Painted in team livery colors, hung with SRAM Red 22 and rolling on HED wheels, this is one serious machine

It’s not often that most of us get to ride the exact same machines that the pro’s do. While we can buy team replica frames, most often they don’t come with the same parts that the pro’s actually ride. Sure you may end up with a bike that may have the same color scheme, and some of the components may look almost right, but when you see a close-up of the pro’s equipment you realize that what you ended up with is indeed just a replica. It’s not the same race-ready gear that is built to hold up to the rigors of the upper echelon of pro cycling.

But Diamondback set out to change all of that in 2014 when they announced that the Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team was going to ride Diamondback Podium bikes. The Podium is one of the finest bikes we’ve ever had the opportunity to ride. Stiff, fast, responsive, and drop-dead gorgeous, these are bikes that can help Optum, and you, take the win. And this is no “team replica” bike either. The light Continuous Fiber Technology frameset is painted up in team livery colors, hung with pro-level SRAM Red 22 components, and rolling on stiff HED carbon tubulars – in short it’s the exact same bike the Optum pro’s will be riding in the Tour of California and other top races in North America and Europe. And the best news is, it’s now available at Performance Bicycle.

To see more, check out the gallery below.

Top 10 Things For 2014

This year saw a lot of innovation, but coming out of all the trade shows, blogs, and our own meetings, there are a few things that really stand out and have us all kinds of excited for 2014. But these are just our thoughts – post a comment below with what cycling gear or rides you’re most pumped to try out in the new year!

1. Disc brakes on road bikes: we’ve had a chance to play around with these a little bit lately, and we’re excited about the performance advantages we’ve seen so far. Hopefully, we’ll see more manufacturers offer a bigger range of bikes with disc brakes.

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We love the performance of disc brakes on the Diamondback Century Sport Disc

2. 1×11 drivetrains for MTB: Who knew that losing a front derailleur could be an improvement? OK, so many folks have already gone down this path of simplicity, but the improved gearing range of 1×11 makes it a possibility for almost any mountain biker. They’ve proven to be a reliable, durable and quiet – we can’t wait to see it come stock on even more bikes. SRAM’s XX1 and (more affordable) X01 systems are the only one’s available right now, but you can go part way towards this system with a ‘narrow-wide’ single front chainring to ditch the front derailleur on your current bike.

We love the new crop of 1×11 MTB drivetrains

3. Hydraulic brakes for the road: The unfortunate SRAM recall aside, we’re excited about the potential for improved braking power. The idea is there, and the applications and benefits are obvious, it just looks like it needs more refining. We’ve been using the TRP HY/RD mechanically actuated hydraulic system the last few weeks, and are pretty impressed, so we’re looking forward to more innovation in 2014.

TRP Hy/Rd mechanically actuated hydraulic brake calipers drastically improve braking performance

TRP Hy/Rd mechanically actuated hydraulic brake calipers drastically improve braking performance

4. SRAM electronic drivetrains: Hey, we’re suckers for new technology! Spotted at the Illinois State CX Championships, it looks like SRAM is finally set to introduce an electronic shifting system to compete with the tried and true systems from Shimano and Campagnolo. Since SRAM seems to like names like “New Red” and “New Red 22″, anyone want to venture a guess about the product name? Click here to learn more from Bike Radar.

5. 27.5” wheels: 27.5″ (aka 650B) wheels on mountain bikes were huge this year, and we bet that next year they’ll gain even more prominence as more folks upgrade their rides. As a mountain biker you owe it to yourself to test out one of these ‘in-between’ bikes if you’re in the market for a new off-road steed – they really do combine some of the best traits of a nimble 26″ bike and a roll-over-anything 29er.

27.5″ wheeled mountain bikes, like this GT Force Carbon, were all the rage this year

6. Giro Air Attack Shield helmets (black, size medium): Literally the only thing on my Christmas list and I didn’t get one. Hopefully one will find it’s way to me in 2014. They make a great Valentine’s Day gift (and that’s a science fact, you guys). But seriously – aero bikes, components and gear will continue to make inroads into more every day rides. It’s free speed with very little trade-off when it comes to weight or comfort.

Maybe next year…

7. New power meter designs: The Garmin Vector and our new completely awesome, formerly super secret wheel project are making power readouts more accessible to cyclists, improving the way we ride and train. Hopefully, the designs will continue to get more affordable and easier to install.

Innovative new power meter designs are bringing power to the masses

8. Fat bikes: Fat bikes are the new fixies, but more fun. Want to experience a trail in a new way? Power through snow? Roll over boulders like it ain’t no thang? Then you need a fat bike – if you have never tried one, then you’ll be blown away by how much fun they are!

Go anywhere on a fat bike. Seriously…you can pretty much go anywhere.

9. Some exciting new stuff added to our bike and clothing lineups: We’ve got some awesome new stuff getting ready to fill up our bike inventory, including some exciting new brands. We can’t say what yet, but we’re really excited. And our clothing team is hard at work improving our already amazing high-value Performance brand apparel – we think you’re going to like what you see!

DSC_4956

More great Performance gear is on the way.

10. More great rides with friends: Whether it’s a lunch time hammerfest with coworkers at the office, an epic Gran Fondo, a ride with the family, or a leisurely weekend excursion with your best riding buddy – we’re here for the ride, and we hope that 2014 brings all of us even more great adventures on 2 wheels!

climbing_3

Here’s to great rides in 2014!

The Fat Bikes Are Coming! Meet The Charge Cooker Maxi.

Well…technically they’re already here. British-brand Charge just dropped their new 2014 Charge Cooker Maxi Fat Bike on us, and it’s pretty awesome. According to Charge: “The Cooker Maxi is designed to take you anywhere. It takes the ‘fat bike’ feel to the trails for a new off road experience. Matching our unique ‘trail tuned’ geometry and premium Tange tubing with huge 4” wide tyres and powerful hydraulic disc brakes.” Be ready for some attention when you take this monster bike out for a ride! Your fellow riders will laugh, smile, and then realize that they want one too!

charge_cooker_maxi_side

The 2014 Charge Cooker Maxi Fat Bike in all its glory!

Lucky for you, friends, it’s up on our website right now, waiting for you to join the fat bike revolution! So, why a fat bike? A fat bike is just that; it’s fat. With the added width and girth you’ll immediately feel more stable. That stability translates into trail confidence, even on singletrack. Add in some remarkably low tire pressures and you’ll be cornering and riding berms with unheard of traction.

This thing is pretty dialed in with excellent components, a great paint job, and — of course — some big ol’ fat 4-inch wide Vee Rubber tires. Drivetrain-wise, a forgiving 36/22-tooth FSA crankset is mated to a 10-speed SRAM cassette and SRAM X5 derailleurs to handle the shifting duties. Pro Max Decipher hydraulic disc brakes, with 160mm rotors front and rear, tame this monster bike’s speed.

The fat bike really made a name for itself where other bikes perform poorly: the snow and sand. That stability and wide footprint will make anything from sand dunes to billowy snow easy to navigate. Here’s a video of the Cooker Maxi having a day out at the beach…which is probably where you wish you were right now, but it’ll work just as well in the snow, or pretty much anywhere that you want to ride!

Our Take: Race vs. Compact Cranksets

When it comes to choosing a crankset for the road, it seems like there are a million and one options out there, but the biggest question we get all the time is: what is the difference between a compact and a race crankset, and which one should I ride?

Race cranksets, also known as “standard” cranksets have a 53 tooth big chainring and a 39 tooth inner ring. Until recently, it was the only gearing option for road riders, unless they went with a triple. The chainrings mount on a spider that has a bolt circle diameter (BCD) of 130mm (Shimano, SRAM, FSA) or 135mm (Campagnolo). This combination gives riders a very tall gear, which allows them to go fast, but requires more strength to push so they are usually only used by more experienced riders, or those with very strong legs. Although even for strong riders the 39 tooth inner ring can make climbing very difficult, and few outside of the pro ranks can ride in the 53-11 combination. However, if you ride with a fast group or are looking to “Cat up” for racing, you may find the race crankset to be ideal.

A race crankset from Campagnolo

The compact crankset hit the scene a few years ago, and was immediately embraced by many riders out there. Compact cranksets have a gear combination of a 50 tooth big ring and a 34 tooth inner ring. The chainrings mount to a smaller 110mm BCD spider (for all brands). The compact crankset gives riders the ability to pedal with a higher cadence in an easier gear instead of always grinding away like you would with a race crankset. Compacts are ideal for riders who are more interested in enjoying the ride than going fast (although we have some folks at the office and in our stores who race on compacts…) or that live in very hilly areas. In fact, even some pro’s will ride compacts on very difficult mountain stages. The main drawback of the compact is how easy the gearing is. It’s not unusual for a rider on a compact to spin out his gearing on a downhill, and some riders find the 34T inner ring to actually make climbing more difficult because it forces them to pedal at an excessively high cadence.

A compact crankset from SRAM

A third option, and one that is increasingly being embraced around the office, is the mid-compact. The mid-compact splits the difference between a standard and compact by offering a 52T big ring and a 36T inner ring. The chainrings mount on either a 110mm BCD (Shimano, SRAM, FSA) or a 130/135mm BCD (FSA, Shimano, Campagnolo) spider. The biggest advantage of the mid-compact is that it gives riders a pretty high top gear thanks to the 52T big ring, while the 36T makes climbing much easier by offering a higher cadence than a 39T, but with more resistance than the 34T.

A mid-compact crankset from Shimano

A fourth, but little used, crank combination is the venerable 54/42T chainring combo, aka “The Flemish Compact”. You can still sometimes find this crankset combination, although it’s almost never spec’ed on a bike now except for some time trial bikes. If you’re an exceptionally strong rider who lives in an exceptionally flat area, you may benefit from using Flemish Compact. Otherwise, we’d recommend staying away unless your first name is “Roger” and your last name is “De Vlaeminck”. So, now for the question…if a 54/42T is a Flemish Compact, what is a Flemish Standard?

Roger de V has a good day riding a Flemish Compact

Roger de V has a great day riding a Flemish Compact

UPDATE: When we first posted this article, many of you asked about triple cranksets. The introduction of the compact crankset, 11-speed drivetrains, and mid-cage rear derailleurs has mostly rendered the triple crankset obsolete. Newer mid-cage rear derailleurs like SRAM’s WiFli system, or options from Shimano and Campagnolo, can now handle cassettes with up to a 32T big cog. An 11-32T or 12-32T cassette, when paired with a compact crankset, appears to offer about the same gearing range as a triple with less gearing overlap, less weight, less mechanical complexity, and a lower Q-factor. A few bikes (mostly touring models) are still spec’d with triples, but if you’re looking for a bike with plenty of gearing options, you may want to look at what the cassette range is instead of the crankset.

So which is the right crankset for you? Well…that’s really going to depend on your ability level, the terrain around you, and your experience. It you’re a very strong, very experienced rider, you’ll probably want to use a race crankset. However, for most riders the compact is just fine. While there is always the temptation on a bicycle to go as fast as possible, it’s important to remember that you need to work your way up to things—and that a bigger gear doesn’t necessarily equal bigger speed. Trying to push too big of a gear right off the bat can hurt your knees, lead to muscle imbalances, and just make rides more difficult and less enjoyable than they need to be. Especially for newer riders, or those without a lot of time to ride, proper form is more important than pushing big gears, and the compact is perfect for developing form since you pedal at a higher cadence. Over time, if you feel you are spinning out the compact crankset, you can always upgrade it with 52/36 or 52/38 chainrings to get more top end speed and a more comfortable climbing cadence.

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