Its that time of year. Either you’re shopping for a gift for a cyclist in your life, or you’re a cyclist and someone is asking you what to get you as a gift.
But buying for a cyclist, or trying to think of something to ask for (aside from, say, a dream bike) can be tough. So we’ve come up with a handy gift guide for the cyclist in your life—or to give you a starting point of things to ask for this holiday season—aside from that dream bike.
For this first part, we’re looking at services. These are the things many riders often think about getting themselves, but they never get around to it, even though they are things they really want or need to enhance their riding experience.
Give the gift of the group ride, the pack, the tribe, the team. Bicycle Sport Shop Cycling Club memberships can be given as gifts and include a number of goodies such as club-exclusive clothing, special race kit pricing, race reimbursements, and discounts and special offers from club sponsors. Plus, it’s fun!
Take Care of Their Bike
A perennial favorite gift, a tune up of a beloved old bike can bring joy to a rider and breathe life into an old favorite that may otherwise be collecting dust. And you can save big on this gift by taking advantage of our Winter Service Specials going on now.
Turn Your Old Bike Into Something Else
Maybe you have an old bike or two that you’re no longer using. Why not bring them in for a trade-in quote from our pre-owned department? If you get an offer you like, you’ll get a gift card for the value of the trade in that you can use immediately toward any item in the store, or you can give the gift card to someone else as a gift!
Give A Transportation Alternative
Why not get the rider in your life out of the car more? An Austin B-cycle membership is just the thing to turn your dedicated roadie or trial rider into a transportation cyclist. One less car for Christmas!
Get Them Comfy
Another yearly favorite—a session with one of our trained bicycle fitters. The best bike in the world is only as good as it is comfortable. You have to want to ride your bike and one sure way to want to ride it is to make sure the riding experience is pleasant and enjoyable. Let our fit technicians get the rider you’re shopping for sitting pretty and smiling for miles with a proper fitting bike.
Give Them Knowledge
Send your cyclist to school for the holidays. Bicycle Sport Shop University classes are a great gift for the rider that wants to be hands-on with the are and upkeep of their bike. Learning maintenance from the best mechanics in ton is a sure fire way to keep them motivated and excited about cycling. This is one of our most popular gifts each year.
Of course there are literally hundreds of things that you can get at the shop to wrap up and put a bow on—including dream bikes. Next time we’ll take a look at a few of our favorite items in stock and ready to make their way onto Santa’s sleigh.
“Have a seat.”
That’s what I heard as I walked past the shop’s General Manager’s office some time ago. So I dutifully walked in and started to sit down as he tossed a Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon saddle in my lap. “Ride this and let me know what you think. I’ve got some calls to make.”
OK. You mean, literally, have seat. Not come in and visit with you. Gotcha.
So while the visit was short I was happy to walk out of the office with a fancy high-end saddle to test. But I had some reservations as well:
- I already had a fancy high-end saddle that I felt had served me well for a number of months;
- I’d never ridden a Bontrager saddle, and wasn’t sure it would be right for me in terms of size or shape;
- It’s cyclocross season, so I’m really only riding my ‘cross bike, and the thought of a REALLY light saddle on a bike I’m bound to crash, well….; and
- My current saddle is designed as an MTB saddle while the Paradigm is a road offering.
But when duty calls, you take up the challenge. Especially when the boss man says to. Who was I to say “no?” Besides, this is my job. Or “job” as my wife likes to call it.
So, given the general similarities in the two saddles I’ve been riding, and despite the MTB vs. road aspect of them, a shoot-out of sorts seemed to make sense.
Before we get to the details on the two perches, let me be clear that a saddle, any saddle, is only as good as it is comfortable. And a saddle is only as comfortable as can be when its position is proper and its shape suits the rider’s physiology and riding style. So it doesn’t matter too much at all about the material a given saddle is made from, how much it weighs, what it looks like, the density of the padding, or the length of the nose. If the saddle isn’t right for your body and your bike, you’re going to be miserable with what everyone else may say is the world’s greatest bike saddle.
Luckily, I went through a detailed fitting with a friend of the shop on my ‘cross bike and have detailed notes on all my measurements. I’ve also attended fit seminars and done other fittings with the shop’s excellent fit staff on my road bike. Years of riding experience and the chance to have ridden lots of great product have also informed me fairly well about what works for me and my riding style.
Armed with all of that information I have been riding the Specialized Phenom MTB saddle for most of my cyclocross “career.” My first ‘cross bike came with one and friends had told me they had great success with it. So I set about learning about the Phenom and on that first bike I elected to run a 143 mm width model. Specialized has a tool—effectually known as, uh, the “assometer”–that’s used to measure a rider’s ischial tuberosity, or sit bones, which I used to help me make my initial size selection. Once I had the saddle in hand, I consulted my bike measurement numbers and installed my then new saddle based on that.
The Phenom Pro features Specialized’s Body Geometry design, designed to improve blood flow and relieve pressure, and is made from lightweight padding, a carbon shell, carbon rails, and a synthetic cover. In the 143 mm size that I’ve been riding (it also comes in 130 mm and 155 mm widths) it has a claimed weight of 192 grams. My actual saddle weighed in at only 190 grams on the shop scale. Win!
I’d ridden a Phenom for all of 2011 and some of the 2012 season and overall felt that it was a solid offering. I had upgraded to the Pro model this year simply because I was looking to make the bike I was riding this season as light as it could reasonably be and still be ridable both in terms of comfort and the fact that I’ll likely crash, drop, fall on, or otherwise do something to my bike during the course of the season while racing it.
As it turns out, switching to the lighter offering was completely unnoticeable aside from when I weighed my bike. And that’s a good thing in my book. The saddle’s relative comfort and shape wasn’t at all impacted by the switch to lighter materials. The only nit pick I had about the Phenom since I first started riding it was the width of the middle portion of the saddle—it seemed a bit too wide as it would, from time-to-time, irritate me some on longer rides as a slid about the seat, a habit I’ve developed over the years. But the Phenom’s main portion was superbly comfortable as was the nose when I was pushed forward trying to go fast—“on the rivet” as they say. And, the Phenom’s noticeable padding was a presumed welcome addition when trying desperately and repeatedly to fix my horrible cyclocross remounting technique. Overall, I thought I had found my cyclocross saddle.
The Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon is similarly designed for riders who sit in a more aggressive position due to a fairly high range of flexibility and motion. The saddle features a cut out like the Specialized offering, which provides soft tissue relief, and also comes in three sizes, 128 mm, 138 mm, and 148 mm widths, but also features size-specific curvature. The padding, probably where the Paradigm saves most of its weight over the Phenom since it too uses a carbon shell and carbon rails, is multi-density depending on location of the saddle. To the touch, it almost feels like there’s no padding at all. And the Bontrager saddle offerings use their InForm Biomechanic design philosophies to aid natural movement.
The Paradigm XXX Carbon is REALLY light, with a claimed weight of 150 grams and my demo saddle coming in at 151 grams on the shop scale. Again, I was concerned that such a light offering might not be suited to the rigors of cyclocross. I was also concerned that the size of my demo saddle, 138 mm wide, was going to be too narrow and that the minimalist padding was going to prove too uncomfortable even on the shortest of my rides.
As it turns out, there was no need for me to be concerned.
The two saddles feature very similar overall shapes despite being different widths. While the tail of the Specialized kicks up ever so slightly, the overall curve is similar between the two offerings and the shape of the nose is similar, although the Bontrager’s is a bit longer. Also, the Bontrager’s middle portion is a bit narrower. As luck would have it—since I didn’t get to pick the size on the demo Bontrager seat—the slightly narrow 138 mm width works better for me on longer rides. The middle portion of the Bontrager saddle hasn’t once irritated the underside of my inner thigh regardless of the bibs I’ve ridden, something that had happened on the Phenom on a few occasions, but really on no other saddle I regularly ride.
The feel of the saddles while riding is similar as well. Both are best experienced with hips rolled well forward aggressively positioned on the hoods or in the drops. Sitting up and cruising isn’t what either of these saddles was designed for, although I’ve done plenty of that as well on each. However, the firmer Bontrager Paradigm saddle has actually turned out to be more comfortable to me than the very slightly heavier padded Phenom. This stands to reason since I’m a fairly lean, boney guy and a firmer saddle will provide me a more stable perch without additional padding pushing up around my sit bones causing uncomfortable pressure. Here, it’s overall saddle design, not potential inaccurate sizing on my part on the Phenom that makes the difference. It makes since that I like the firmer Paradigm more since I find the excellent Specialized Romin road saddle—one with minimum padding—to be superbly comfortable and never an issue.
As for durability, both saddles shine. I’ve managed to crash quite hard twice this ‘cross season, once on each saddle. The first was during a recovery ride along Lady Bird Lake. I was riding along at about 6 mph and misjudged a stone step in the path and over the bars I went. My bike, and my brand new Specialized Phenom Pro, went tumbling down a set of forgotten stairs. While I had a few scrapes and horribly injured pride, the saddle was great, if a bit dusty. Weeks later, and days after installing the Paradigm I fell very hard at cyclocross practice, my head taking much of the impact, thankfully on grass and thankfully in a helmet, and my bike hitting the sidewalk I was turning off of. If there was a solid way to test a 150 gram saddle, repeated cyclocross remounts after throwing it on the cement at 20 mph seems like a good real-world test. The Paradigm XXX was fine, unlike my helmet. The things I do for this blog.
So what’s the take away here? High-end fancy saddles are nice for sure. But the smallest differences in any saddles’ shapes and construction impact how a they feel. After years of very firm saddles on road bikes, the switch to an even slightly more padded saddle for cyclocross may have been a misjudgment on my part based on preconceived notions about ‘cross remounts. Moreover, measure twice and cut–or choose saddle width–once. Like it makes good sense to have the fit of your bike checked from time-to-time based on how much you’re riding, checking your saddle is a good idea too, something apparently I should do. You may have improved flexibility, dropped some weight, or changed riding disciplines altogether, each of which alone could warrant a saddle change to maintain or improve comfort and enhance the ride experience.
I’m really liking this Bontrager Paradigm XXX saddle. It works for me in terms of comfort, which is key, and meets my goal to build up a light but durable race bike.
Now to avoid the GM’s office so he doesn’t call me in and ask for his seat back.
We want to let you know about an important initiative underway in Austin. It is called “Your Path to Austin,” which will update the City’s Bicycle Master Plan and create a new Urban Trails Plan. These plans will help us achieve a connected and protected active transportation network and increase opportunities for people to safely bike around town, regardless of age or biking ability.
To help make sure these planning efforts reflect the goals and priorities of community members, the City has created an online survey to gather important input about bicycling experiences and preferences. Please take a few minutes now and complete the survey.
You can also visit the project’s website to learn more about the innovative strategies being explored to create a connected and protected network, including the use of Cycle Tracks –on-street bicycle lanes that are physically protected from motor traffic and separate from sidewalks, and Urban Trails –shared use paths used by bicyclists, walkers and runners for both recreation and transportation purposes.
You’ll also have the opportunity to learn more and weigh-in with your input at public events on the evenings of November 12, 13, and 14. In the meantime, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to complete the survey and make sure Your Path to Austin reflects your views!
Please share this information on to others you think would be interested!
This weekend’s Bicycle Sport Shop Six Shooter marks the start of the Texas Cyclocross calendar and with a couple days left to pre-register, it looks like this may well be the biggest cross race Texas has ever seen! With fields for every level of rider, great prizes from Specialized, Enve Composites, Grease Monkey Wipes, Grimpeur Bros. Speciality Coffee, Thunderbird Energetica, and Epic Bar, and equal payouts for the men’s and women’s open races thanks to Udell Direct and River City Market–a first for Texas CX–it’s sure to be, well, epic! Add in the fun that Team Super Awesome brings to every cross race, a kid-specific course for the little ones, and our own cyclocross club, including reigning 50+ state champ Joey “the Cuban Missile” Machado, and it’s going to be a really great event!
Aside from partners like our generous race sponsors and the promotion crew behind the event, Capital City Racing, it takes a great bike to race cyclocross well. And our club members and staffers have overwhelmingly picked the Specialized Crux as their bike of choice for this year. Joey, myself, and the Lamar store’s Ray Frias sat down and talked about the Crux and some of the things you’ll see for 2014 in cyclocross bikes.
The Crux first appeared late Summer 2010 as a 2011 model. Then the bike was an aluminum-only offering, modeled on the prototypes that Specialized sponsored pros had been on the year prior. I rode that first consumer version during my first cross season and loved it. It felt every bit race bike—like a road bike even—in terms of handling, but was also quite surefooted thanks to a generous wheelbase and overall smart geometry. I have to think Specialized benefited not only from pro cross racer feedback on the design of first Crux, but from years of being in the MTB game.
The 2014 Crux models, which were released late Summer, are now actually a host of bikes reflecting Specialized’s commitment to cyclocross; two carbon frames—the S Works version and the “standard” carbon frame, both carry-overs from 2013—along with the original aluminum option, each offered with either traditional cantilever or disc brakes and each available in seven sizes. That’s 42 different frames, more than any other bike in the Specialized line-up and more cyclocross frames than probably any other maker.
Joey, Ray, and I are on various iterations of the Crux. After a year off Specialized I’m back on a 2013 carbon cantilever brake Crux, the Crux Pro, and am really impressed with the bike. Ray is riding the new 2014 Elite EVO Rival Disc model, and Joey, our e-Bay czar, is on the Pro Race Red Disc. There are a few other folks around the shop riding the Crux as well.
The three of us sat down recently to compare Crux notes and talk cross.
Joey, I’ve seen you at various cyclocross races over the last couple of years and heckled you mercilessly, and you’ve been featured as the in-house shop CX expert on this blog before. Ray, you’re kind of new to Austin. What’s your CX background? Is this your first CX bike?
Ray: This is my first cyclocross bike. I competed in two races a couple years ago but did it on a single speed mountain bike. Excited to do it on a bike that is built for cyclocross racing!
Excellent. You’re going to be addicted for sure! Let’s get right to it with what many CX folks are talking about: brakes. Ray, you and Joey are on hydraulic discs. What are your thoughts so far? Do you have experience with MTB hydraulic discs?
Ray: My bike has SRAM S-700 hydraulic brakes with 10 speed shifters. I am still in awe with the performance difference from the brakes compared to rim brakes on a road bike. I have ridden mountain bikes with hydraulic brakes and feel there is no huge difference between those and the brakes on my Crux. The only draw back that I have seen so far is the added weight. Cantilever brakes are still much lighter and you have a larger choice of wheels to choose from right now.
Joey: My first thoughts on the new SRAM Red hydraulic discs are “I don’t think I can go back to canti’s!” Yes, there is a weight penalty of roughly a pound, but the action is sooo good! On the hoods I can actually use one finger to scrub off speed, and if going down a steep or technical decent then 2 fingers…very similar to MTB disc brakes. Another perk is the consistency; whether you’ve just ridden through a sand pit or are bombing a fast decent you don’t have to guess or feel the brakes out before really breaking. Rather, the hydraulic brakes give you immediate feedback/modulation. Lastly, the larger SRAM hydraulic shifter hoods make for a more secure hand position. It’s comfy and keeps your hands in place when the terrain turns rough.
Overall, how easy is disc set up?
Ray: So from the get go I ran into 2 issues, both a problem with the front brake. The brakes come pre-bled, which was great with the back brake being pre-installed and the rear wheel’s smaller 140 mm rotor being well protected in shipping. The front brake you have to install and align. But with it being bled without being setup on the bike meant the lever pulled all the way to the bar. So I had to bleed the brake a few times before I was happy with the modulation of the front lever. The second problem I had was likely due to shipping. The front rotor was pre-installed on the front wheel and came bent. I ordered a new rotor to resolve rubbing noise. Being that I upgraded the component, it also increased braking power. I’m considering upgrading the rear rotor as well now.
Joey: Disc set up-oh, what a pain! Discs require a bit more time, patience, and experience! My mechanic too had to bleed the front brake and get it to match my rear. If you’re new to disc brake wheels be very careful when removing or installing them. The rotor itself can scrape the inside of your carbon frame or fork! Just take your time and always be looking at where the rotor is heading!
Sounds like the brakes feel great once set up, but that it takes some special attention to get it done. I’ll be curious to see how you guys handle wheel changes in the pits as races!
I’m loving the handling of my Crux—much like my Tarmac. What do you guys think of the Crux overall? How does it ride?
Ray: The easiest comparison I can make is to my old road bike also a Specialized Tarmac. The bikes feel similar at the front end. Both are very quick feeling and I had no adjustment period to learn the Crux’s handling. The feel and familiarity of the front end helps with how the bike maneuvers. It’s quick like a road bike.
Agreed! Aside from different pedals, it was almost like I was on the same bike. Although you can feel the overall weight difference on the Crux compared to a truly feathery light road bike.
Ray: The added weight you find on a ‘cross bike, not just a disc equipped one, but the overall “burlier” build, makes climbing a little more challenging. I ride my Crux on the road and riding climbs I’ve done on my road bike I have found myself working harder to keep the same pace that I was used to on the Tarmac. The great thing is the lower gearing on the Crux. Coming from a 39 to a 34-tooth small chain ring helps relieve the effort and keeps my cadence higher, but I do loose some speed not being forced to turn the bigger gear.
Joey: I’ve ridden both the S-Works Crux and the non S-Works model, and the ONLY difference I feel is when you weigh them or have to pay for them! The Crux frames do handle incredibly stable at top speeds and boy can they carve corners! Steering is precise and the race geometry adds to its great handling and climbing efficiency.
I’ve made some upgrades to my bike, mostly to lighten it up as I’m a weight weenie when it comes to my CX bike. Together my bike and I have lost about 10 pounds since last season! I’m also making the move to tubular wheels. Everyone tells me they provide better traction. Are you guys riding your bikes stock? What changes have you made, if any?
Ray: Nearly stock. The aforementioned upgraded front brake rotor to Shimano XT IceTech in 160mm size. Also currently testing a Ergon SM3 mountain bike saddle. Surprisingly comfortable. The only other thing I will change are tires. My bike came stock with 38 mm Specialized Trigger tires, which seem designed for gravel roads. The larger tires are nice but the tread is not quite aggressive enough and probably won’t be as suitable for cyclocross terrain such as grass and sand. Plus, I want to make the move to tubeless.
Joey: As with any race bike, I prefer a few mods. One is for fit, I usually run a zero offset seat post and a shorter stem length than what typically comes stock. As the stock parts are typically aluminum I replace them with carbon ones to shed a little weight while keeping or adding stiffness where you need it, like the cockpit. Wheels are another upgrade for me. The 2014 Pro Race Red Disc comes with a nice pair of carbon tubular wheels as well as aluminum clincher training hoops, but those aren’t tubeless compatible, a must in my book for serious CX use and I think tubeless-specific wheels are best when running a tubeless system/tires. This year I luckily found a few options that were tubeless, disc, and 11-speed, which is what I’m running this season. The real challenge was in finding a fully compatible AND affordable training wheelset. Next year though I’m sure there will be plenty more options.
I’m running my Ultegra tubeless wheels from last season for training and I have to say, tubeless seems to be the way to go—cost-effective, very puncture resistant when run with sealant, and they can be fairly light. I’ll have to tell you guys how the tubulars work out for me after the Six Shooter.
Races have yet to start. But I’ve seen you both out and about at Richard Moya Park. Where else are you riding your Crux to get ready?
Ray: I have owned the bike for a few weeks now and have only done a few cyclocross type rides. Early on when I got the bike I was mostly ridding the road. I’m still pretty new to Austin so I’m not sure of every place to practice or where any long dirt roads are. I also understand where my fitness currently is and I am still building up some base miles. I’ve been doing a few of the local cyclocross practices and am really enjoying it.
Joey: When I ride my Crux I usually head East via the hike-n-bike trail. Other options for me include riding the hike-n-bike from Auditorium Shores through downtown over to Shoal Creek to Peace Park. There’s a great hike-n-bike path along Peace Park following Shoal Creek with a few dismount sections too. Of course, Northwest Park and Richard Moya Park are always great training grounds.
It’s hard to beat Northwest and Moya—two great places to practices. Goals for the 2013-14 CX season? Favorite races? I’m partial to the Six Shooter—the season opener is always a good time!
Ray: This will be my first year racing and like most everyone I will be starting as a Cat 5. My major goal is to have fun and to finish every race strong. I am not worried with weight of my bike or who I will be competing with. I just want to be able to compare the first race and the last race I do and see an improvement throughout the season. If I am unable to compete let alone complete a race in the Cat 5 field I can only blame myself not the bike! I am looking forward to every race I can get to since each one will be a new experience.
Joey: Goals? Go hard, push myself, and have fun while at it… and don’t get too distracted by the quality heckln’! My favorite races are Waco, Terra X, and Cycle Haus/Fredericksburg weekend. Really anything that’s technical or up and down with little recovery time…. Mo’ cowbell please!
Mo’ cowbell indeed! Thanks guys! See ya at the Six Shooter!
This was the first time that I was at Interbike on a Friday. And it was a different experience than the other days.
I spent the better part of the early morning writing and running through photos, in advance of a meeting with Aaron at Niner Bikes.
Niner’s commitment to the 29 platform is obvious–it’s all they do. Their bikes are quite popular with both our customers and our staffers, particularly the JET and RIP models. Those two 100 and 125 mm travel bikes, respectively, are essentially unchanged for 2014. Good news for the folks that really love those platforms and the way those bikes ride.
Aaron and I talked about much of the line. I was drawn to the simplicity of the new ONE 9 RDO single speed set-up. The bike on display was chock full of trick lightweight parts, including a good helping of Niner’s own RDO–Race Day Only–items. It’s a carbon-only model based on Niner’s popular hard tail offering, the AIR 9, which is done in either carbon or aluminum. And we took a look at the WFO 9, Niner’s 150 mm travel park/enduro bike. The WFO 9 saw a number of frame refinements for 2014, including air forming the aluminum frame version, rather than hydro forming, which allows for more precise wall thickness and shaved 3/4 of a pound from the bike. Pretty amazing stuff. The bike’s also sporting slacker geometry, which puts it more in the gravity category, particularly when paired with a fork with up to 170 mm of travel.
But the bike that I along with every other show goer probably came to see from Niner was their all-new RLT 9, a dedicated gravel grinder. Yes, a drop bar, “skinny” tire bike from a mountain bike company. Talking with Aaron it’s easy to see it’s not a far leap. The folks at Niner love to ride. Period. And while their not likely to build a dedicated road bike, the RLT–the Road Less Traveled–represents a nod to long rides on mixed surfaces.
While many folks will look at the RLT 9 and say “cyclocross,” it’s not a ‘cross bike. The RLT has a slacker head tube, longer wheelbase, and rack and fender mounts integrated that take it beyond the ‘cross bike moniker. That’s not to say that the RLT couldn’t make the Six Shooter podium under the right rider. It’s just that riding the deserted country road rather than in the tape is what the RLT is truly built for.
However you ride the RLT 9, the folks at Niner must have done something right. The bike was awarded Outside Magazine’s Gear of the Show Award.
Leaving the Niner booth and day dreaming about 5 hour dirt road rides I noticed how quiet it was compared to the first two days. Fewer booths were pumping music, many attendees we’re already heading home, and even some vendors were packing it in. Realizing that I had a few remaining hours, I knew there were a few other items I really wanted to see.
One was the new Garmin POV camera. Yes, a camera from a GPS company. Actually, two cameras: the VIRB and the VIRB Elite.
The VIRB shoots in True HD 1080p and uses image stabilization and lens distortion correction to create clean images. And the camera itself has a display built into it so you can frame shots, use the menu, and playback what you’ve recorded. Smart.
Like other POV offerings, the VIRB has a rechargeable battery that provides three hours of video operation. The camera also shoots still images as a photo burst or in time lapse. And the mount has multiple placement options and is ratcheted to prevent slipping.
The VIRB is ANT+ capable so you can pair it with your Garmin computer, which can act as a remote for the camera.
The Elite model also has bluetooth/wi-fi ability so that your phone, when running Garmin’s smartphone app, can be a remote an will allow preview and replay capability. The VIRB Elite also has a built-in accelerometer and altimeter and has heart rate and cadence sensors for recording then overlaying your ride data onto your videos. It’s a nice little piece of equipment for sharing your ride adventures with friends and family that didn’t actually get out and pedal with you.
I couldn’t convince the folks at Garmin to let me take the camera and wander around the show a bit as things started to close up.
I made it past a few more booths to see products that others had told me to check out and to say hello to friends working the show. Everyone seemed to be in about the same state–happy that Interbike was drawing to an end and looking forward to some much needed rest, but also wondering about everything that they missed at the industy’s biggest show of the year.
See you in 2014, Interbike.
Running on little sleep after a late night of cyclocross racing and socializing, day two of Interbike started off quick. While the show doors officially open at 9 am each day, my press badge gets me in early, which is really helpful for getting to make the most of seeing much of the show and still having time to talk with the folks behind the shop’s favorite brands.
It’s certainly seems that day two is busier than the day one seeing the hustle and bustle of the show once it’s really in full swing. The press room too was busier and the coffee was flowing faster as everyone pounded away on keyboads, tablets, and phone screens and sorted through photos and social media channels. Fully caffinated with the proir day’s report done and day two notes in hand, I hit the ground running.
My first stop was to talk with the folks at Quality Bicycle Products and Surly Bikes. Quality is top-notch partner for the shop and they distribute Surly along with, well, seemingly everything you can imagine, are the folks behind Frostbike, and are real industry leaders. Aside from catching up with folks and meeting new people, the real task was to see Surly’s three new bikes: the ECR, the Instigator 2.0, and the Straggler.
The ECR, as Surly says, is a sort of lovechild born from their Krampus fat bike, the Orge–Surly’s all-purpose MTB based on the venerable Karate Monkey’s geometry, and the Long Haul Trucker touring road bike. The ECR with it’s 29″ wheels built on 50 mm wide rims seems built for everything as it can ride varried terrain, with a focus on off-road ridin and adventure/camping trips. The ECR, like many of their complete bikes is available as a frameset only too so you can prepare your bike, your way, for your ride.
The Instigator 2.0 isn’t completely new. There was an Instigator in the Surly line-up in the past. The difference lies in the new 26″+ design; Surly’s use of 50 mm wide rims and the accompanying near-fat bike sized tires renders a ride that starts to push towards the 650b platform that is becoming a real trend in the MTB market. The Instigator 2.0 is certainly a fast, fun MTB–sort chainstays and a balanced ride paird with a 140 mm travel Fox fork should render the latest Instigator a fast, fun ride.
The Straggler is close to my heart. After all, it’s a cyclocross bike. But it’s more than that. Based on the Cross-Check with the addition of disc brakes, it retains the Cross-Check’s rack and fender mounts. That means added versitility–cross bike, road bike with a change of tires, light touring bike with some racks and panniers, commuter with some fenders–with better stopping power. You’re bound to see this bike at some of our events–Professor Al from Bicycle Sport Shop University has one on order already!
Surly is such a fun brand with a great product line and the new bikes are solid additions. We don’t stock every model or every frameset that’s available but with the great team at Surly and Quality we can get any of their great steel bikes for however and wherever you want to ride.
Santa Cruz and Juliana Bicycles was next on my list of folks to say hello to. With well known and long time popular bikes with many of our customers, Santa Cruz has in recent years seen a resurgence with the Tallboy and Highball 29′ers, particularly in Austin. And like those bikes became class leaders, the new 5010 and 5010 carbon are sure to take the 650b trend to the next level. The 5010 was the bike I came to see, depsite the shop having had a couple in already, and it seemed that a number of other folks did as well. And the Santa Cruz Bantam brings the 650b platform to more riders as an aluminum single-pivot ride too. Nice.
Not to be outdone, Juliana Bicycles–as in Juliana Furtado–has their own 650b line-up for women riders. There’s the Furtado Primeiro and Segundo models, in carbon and aluminum respectviely and then there’s the new launched-at-Interbike Juno. The Juno is an aluminium single-pivot ride, like the Santa Cruz Bantam, and is a model that is sure to get more folks interested in giving 650b a try. Santa Cruz and Juliana Bicycles both are fully committed to 650b–perfect for riders that wants the momentum advantage of a 29′er, but also want a bike that feels more playful and allows for a little more inventive riding. And we think there’s something to it too for the right rider. Lisette with Juliana Bicycles was very nice and walked me through the entire line up from the original high quality women’s mountain bike brand.
After a quick bite and running into some friends and talking about show highlights, I had some time to take in parts of the show that I hadn’t seen. Tubing manufactuerers, tire companies, wheelmakers, fitting systems, cycling-related electronics, and more. It’s not just brands that you see at the shop that are here, but it’s also the brands behind those brands that are also exhibiting giving Interbike it’s depth. So much to see.
In the afternoon I had a chance to talk with Laura at Electra. Electra crusiers, and the ever-popular Townie, are some of the most asked about bikes in the shop. Wether folks are draw to th graphics, the ride, or both, Electra has done a great job of doing what we see as our main goal–to get more folks riding bikes. The comfort of the Townie’s ride position and the fun of the cruisers makes them a natural choice for first-timers and folks looking to add a fun bike to their normal road and/or MTB routine.
For 2014 electra has moved into the electric bike market with the Townie Go. A SRAM pedal assist drivetrain is the Go’s heart and takes the Townie to the next level, from neighborhood runabout to commuter contender. The system is very cleanly executed and the bike is balanced and a breeze to ride. Being pedal assist, it enhance your effort and makes the ride easier.
The other interesting thing from Electra is the introduction of a new fitness bike, the Verse. This is a new forray for Electra. But rather than make another flat bar road bike, they’ve added their own twists with styling and colors befitting thier company ethos.
By the end of the day when thow was closing for the night I was beat. But there was more bike racing offer! The USA Crit Series Finals were literally right outside the show, in the Mandalay Bay parking lot. The show venue known as”The Paddock”–where some brands offered test rides of their popular models, including our friends at Electra in the e-bike area– was transformed into a crit course for the evening’s races. I watched as industry members battled it out in the afternoon sun and then the elite women and men took to the course under the lights as the evening went on.
Day two wrapped up with a very late dinner, re-boxing my cyclocross bike for the flight home, and some fun at an industry party at one of Vegas’ many clubs. Redux indeed.
The first day of Interbike, like last year, was a whrilwind. Up early to eat and finalize a plan of attack and then hopefully hit the ground running when the doors opened at 9 am. Covering some vendor visits for our bike buyer, Scott, I had a packed day before participating in the Clifbar CrossVegas Wheelers and Deealers race last night.
The morning started off with a walk of most of the main part of the exhibit hall. There are over 1200 cycling industry brands showing at Interbike so there’s quite a bit of ground to cover. Still, geting a lay of the land is key to move efficiently and effectively around the show. After my hour walk it was time to meet with Brian at Co-Motion Cycles.
Many folks think of tandems when you mention Co-Motion. And rightly so. Of their 19 models, 10 are bicycles built for two. For 2014 the Carrera is their new tandem offering. Designed for riders looking to do Grand Fondo type rides and light touring. It’s a Reynolds 631 steel offering with tube buttings done to Co-Motion’s specifications, and of course spotrs all of Co-Motion’s great custom options and upgrades.
There are singles coming out of Co-Motion’s Oregon shop too of course. And the bike Scott really wanted me to look at–and the one I was most excited to see–was their new gravel grinder bike, the Klatch. Slotted between a road bike and cyclocross bike, the Klatch is for the rider looking to take the road less traveled–even if it’ not paved. The bike’s longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket are designed for a comfortable, stable ride, and with it’s rank and fender eyelets, the Klatch is a go anywhere ride that is still, as Brian put it, “podium ready” for the local CX race. With two stock build options, both sportting disc brakes, the Klatch is sure to catch on quick as the interest in gravel grinder rides grows.
Of course I knew about the handmade bikes coming out of Co-Motion, but what I didn’t realize is how inventive and resourceful they have to be to get bikes to folks the way they want them. For example, tandem riders wanting to run a Shimano Di2 system on their tandem, which traditionally has a tandem specific triple crankset. Enter the guys in the Co-Motion machine shop. They created a custom Di2 front derailleur mount that would with the removal of the smallest chainring, allow the riders q-factor (pedal stance) to remain in line with the frame, and still provide proper chainline for the two-ring electronic system by moving the derailleur outboard. Pretty slick.
Just as slick was their new Rohloff shifter. So new in fact that the one I saw didn’t even have gear number ettchings on it. The challenge with the shifter that Co-Motion offers is that it needs to mount on top of the bar near the stem and thus has to run over the rear brake cable, so it has to be somewhat large. But it also has to be small enough to grip it and be shaped so that it can be used when, say, a rider’s hand is gloved, or wet, or both. Again, machine shop to the rescue. The new shifter gets the job done and hits the design goals of being smaller and easier to grasp.
Co-Motion does so much of their own work–producing forks, dropouts, and more–that other bike makers come to them for their offerings. And consumers with tandems from other builders come to them for accessories like stoker stems and their first-in-class travel cases for tandems and singles alike with S&S couplers. Good folks there at Co-Motion.
After meeting Brian it was off for some more floor walking. There were tons of interesting bikes and products to se and share on our Instagram and Twitter feeds, where our “live” show coverage is really happening. In the midst of it, I realized it was closing in on lunch time and I caught up with another Brian–this one from Verde BMX. Brian is a former BMX pro, a legend, so he knows his way around the BMX scene and what a destination Austin is for BMX riding. We grabbed a bite and talked a lot about Verde’s new line for 2014–all of which we stock–as well as the Texas Toast Jam and Austin’s hosting the 2014 X-Games, which Brian predicts will really move BMX in Austin to even greater visibility. Rad.
With shops from all over the country looking at basically every product on offer, it’s sometimes tough to talk with the folks you want to see. Such was the case for me with Tern. Their booth was hoppin’–not just because of the beers and the talk of a post-show social ride down the las Vegas strip–but because of the bikes on offer. My contact there, Dale, was knee deep in showing the line to others and went over our meeting time. Such is life at Interbike, so I’ll have to catch him today hopefully.
With CrossVegas to get to, I started to make my way back to the hotel to get ready. But before I could get out of the exhibit hall I ran into Ian from Castelli Cycling. Ian and I talked a bit about the show and the race and he gave me one of their special CrossVegas tees to sport post-race and some of Castelli’s CX 6.0 CX gloves to ride in–thanks, Ian! A quick change into my San Remo speed suit and I was riding to the race venue.
I was able to get a couple of warm up laps in on the fully set up course–including riding the two flyovers and the wooden berm u-turn. The course was great fun, if tough, and the industry race went by in a flash. Well, more of a flash for the folks at the front of the field, but still. It seemed over before it started. Post-race I was doing my best to fill in some for Cyclocross Magazine. I’m not a video interviewer by any means, but I did my best to try to get some interesting stuff, and had a chance to talk not only with the reigning Cyclocross National Champ, Jonathan Page, but also the second place finisher in the women’s eleite race, Lea Davison riding for Specialized.
Interbike Day 1 and CrossVegas make for a busy day. But they go together so well. Like peanut butter and jelly.