RBR Newsletter

Interbike Best of The Rest: Paul Smith

This was my very first trip to Interbike. After years of seeing the reports from across the Internet I was delighted to have the chance to attend in person. I arrived just in time to make the last shuttle of Day One to the Outdoor Demo in Boulder City, a 30-minute drive outside Vegas. [Photos by Paul Smith.]

When I got there, the wind was blowing hard. The exhibitors were using their own people as tent weights at times, grabbing hold of the canopies to keep them on the ground. Despite this, there was a very relaxed vibe to the place. Although the majority of the riding there was being done on mountain bikes, there were many high-end road bikes available for demo. I took a look around, made a plan for the next day, and then headed back out on the earliest possible shuttle on the second day to demo some of these bikes.

Agron 18

I was fortunate enough to test two bikes from the Argon 18 lineup: the Nitrogen aero bike and the Gallium Pro. In the strong wind, the Nitrogen proved to be a handful for me on the descent to Lake Mead, with the bike moving around in the wind. At the turnaround point, everything changed and it proved to be a comfortable, stiff and capable climber as I headed back toward the demo area.

The Gallium Pro proved to be more suited for those conditions. Where the Nitrogen was noticeably affected by the wind, the Gallium tracked completely predictably. Climbing back after the turnaround was, if anything, even easier on the Gallium. The Nitrogen seems like a superb bike for the right conditions, but the Gallium seemed like a superb bike for almost any conditions.

Open U.P.

One of the other standout bikes, and one that I knew nothing about previously, was the Open U.P., highlighted in last week's Newsletter by Jim Langley. I got more intrigued as the bike was being described to me.

This is the best reason I have seen yet for the use of disc brakes. By that I mean that you can swap out wheelsets to transform the bike. The wide seatstays and fork allow for many different wheel widths to be used, allowing you to, in effect, change the bike from a road machine to a gravel grinder to a cyclocross bike. I tested it with 650b wheels and was able to keep up with the mountain bikes riding alongside me on the trails.

Alto Velo

Alto Velo, a startup wheel company, ably demonstrated their new wheelsets. Bobby Sweeting, the CEO, invited me to hold the wheel by the axels and spin it around. I’ve never felt smoother and freer-spinning hubs before. On the demo ride, I was amazed at how quickly the wheels would spin up and would then hold their speed. According to Alto Velo, they have developed tolerances that exceed anything else in the industry. I will be reviewing a set of these new wheels soon.

Interbike, the Indoor Show

As John mentioned leading off, the show itself is immense. Finding your way around even with a very specific idea of what you want to see is hard to pull off successfully -- there’s always something to catch your eye. Here are a handful of my highlights. And look for some of these, and other, products to be the subjects of RBR product reviews in the coming months.


Bolle has entered the road bike helmet market. The company’s soon-to-be-released offering, called The One, was very interesting to see, with a built-in “sunglasses garage,” a rear light and a comfortable liner for winter riding. The helmet will sell for $129.99 in standard trim. Adding removable aero shields in the premium version increases the price to $169.99.

Kali Protectives is the only helmet maker we saw (there may be others we are not aware of) offering an alternative to MIPS, using a licensed system they call BumperFit 2.0. The idea is the same – to mitigate the impact forces on your brain in the event of a crash. Kali also uses a system called Composite Fusion Plus to meld together the shell and the foam, with additional softer and harder foam layers for better protection. This complete system will appear in their Kava time trial helmet to be released before the end of 2015.

Blinded by the Light(s)

High-power self-contained LED lights were everywhere at the show, and we will be conducting a roundup of many of these lights soon.

Offerings suitable for typical road riding in dark conditions range from 600- to 1200-lumen models. Rather than just throwing light down the road, however, manufacturers are starting to consider how to tune lenses for peripheral lighting, illumination from the side of the light, accelerometers to detect when the rider is braking and to increase the output of the rear light, plus many more features.

In our roundup review later this year, we will be covering models from (at a minimum) Lezyne, Knog, CatEye, Niterider, Serfas, C3 Sports and SeeSense.


Former Bishop to Serve 10 Years in Prison for Killing Cyclist

Former Bishop Heather Cook last month pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges a day before her trial was to begin in the hit-and-run death of 41-year-old cyclist Thomas Palermo.

As part of the plea, Cook was sentenced to 20 years in jail and will be required to serve 10 years, with 10 years suspended and five years' probation.

Cook, 58, hit and killed Palermo, 41, when she drove her SUV into a bicycle lane in Baltimore late last year. When she hit Palermo from behind, her blood alcohol was nearly three times Maryland’s legal limit, at 0.22 percent. She was also texting at the time, and she fled the scene, only to return later at the urging of friends.

She pleaded guilty to: automobile manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and driving while under the influence and texting while driving.

You may recall that RBR wrote about this galling incident earlier this year. It was particularly egregious because Cook had a known history of alcoholism and drug issues, including a prior DUI arrest, yet she was elevated by the Episcopal church to the rank of bishop. In addition, she was not immediately charged in the case.

Our Original Story

An Episcopal bishop in Baltimore on December 27 hit and killed Thomas Palermo, a well-known 41-year-old cyclist, and a father of two young children, while he was riding in what the New York Times described as a “wide bike lane” on a popular cycling road.

The bishop, Heather Elizabeth Cook, 58, was reported to be drunk, and texting, at the time of the accident. She fled the scene, returning 30 minutes later, with a church official in tow. A breath test showed her blood alcohol level to be .22 (the legal limit in Maryland is .08). Yet, she was released after the breathalyzer test at the police station and not charged for another week.

Cook eventually was charged with manslaughter, leaving the scene, driving under the influence of alcohol and texting while driving. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

If that single incident weren’t horrific enough, what came out in the aftermath is what truly sets this tragedy apart. This paragraph from a Wall Street Journal story on the case summarizes it perfectly:

“The accident has drawn national interest because Cook is the No. 2 official in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and its first female bishop, and because she was charged in a dramatic drunken driving case in 2010 at her previous assignment, in the Diocese of Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, before becoming bishop. In that case, an officer found Cook in the middle of the night driving on three tires, with vomit on her shirt and too intoxicated to complete a sobriety test, according to the police report.”

In that earlier case, Cook registered a 0.27 blood-alcohol level. She received probation and was ordered to pay a $300 fine. Yet, even with that arrest on her record, church officials still promoted her to bishop after the incident.

Palermo’s family released a statement that read: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the events leading up to the senseless hit-and-run accident that claimed Tom’s life, and support the prosecutor’s efforts to hold Bishop Heather Cook accountable for her actions to the fullest extent of the law.”

This tragic case raised a host of issues about the way church organizations handle forgiveness and addiction, about the way police handle cases such as this one (critics claimed the bishop received deferential treatment), and cycling advocates, too, complained that such a clear-cut case should have been prosecuted quicker, and more forcefully. There’s also the question of how her initial drunken driving case was adjudicated.

Read the Wall Street Journal and New York Times articles for more information.


An article about Cook’s sentencing in ends with what may be the best possible postscript from the Episcopal church (though it is from a single Episcopal pastor, it still fully recognizes the failures of the church in the case).

“Following a diocesan meeting Rev Anjel Scarborough wrote in an open letter to her congregation at Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick in January.

“She said although the committee that appointed Cook appear to have followed the Church's national guidelines, ‘our guidelines are woefully inadequate and naïve in addressing the complex problems of substance abuse and addiction.’

“Scarborough lists a summary of the many failures she perceives in this tragic event.

“‘In the end, this was an epic failure. It was the failure of a process to stop a candidate for bishop from being put forward when clearly her alcoholism was not in remission. It was a failure of Heather's to choose not to treat her alcoholism and conceal her past. This resulted in the death of a husband and father – something which Heather will have to live with for the rest of her life and for which she may be incarcerated. This was our failure of Heather too.’

“‘As the Church, we set her up to fail by confusing forgiveness with accountability. We did not hold her accountable to a program of sobriety and we failed to ask the tough love questions which needed to be asked. In so doing, we offered cheap grace – and that is enabling.’”



RBR's New Kits Now Available

RBR’s brand new full kits are now available for sale directly from Voler.

The new kits feature the main colors of our new website. (Full graphics, front and back, are on the Voler site. Here's a taste.)

You can check out all the new stuff at:

Voler has available for sale both Men’s and Women’s full-zip, race cut jerseys (non-Premium price: $79; Premium price: $53) and ¾-zip, club cut jerseys (non-Premium price: $75; Premium price: $49), along with both Men’s and Women’s shorts (non-Premium price: $79; Premium price: $50) and bibs (non-Premium price: $89; Premium price: $55).

The kits are produced on demand, so once you place your order, Voler makes the gear in their California factory and ships it directly to you.

In addition, Voler will be offering the vintage RBR “Red Stripe” jersey we did two years ago. Check back to our sales page on Voler for that.

Premium Members: To access the instructions and promo code to save 33% on our new kit, while logged in click (Your price for a full kit, including full-zip jersey and bib shorts, is just $108, a savings of $60!)

Send along photos of yourself in the new RBR kit when you can. We’d love to run a few!


Our Next Premium Prize -- Selle Anatomica X Series Saddle

Selle Anatomica has agreed to provide one of its X Series Saddles as our next Premium Member Giveaway prize! The Selle Anatomic X Series Saddle (click to read our 4.5-star review), is a full-grain leather, Made in the USA saddle renowned for its looks and its long-distance comfort right out of the box.

Any new or renewing Premium Members between July 1 (when we gave away our last great prize) and September 30 are eligible for the drawing. We’ll announce the winner in the October 8 RBR Newsletter.

Click to learn more about the LifeBEAM Helmet with Built-In Heart Rate Sensor!
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