RBR Newsletter

First Impressions from Interbike 2014

Editor’s Note:  Quick update to my review of the HR-sensor LifeBEAM helmet last week. A couple of readers wrote to ask about how the helmet works with a headband. Just to clarify, I wear a headband every time I wear the helmet (which is every time I ride). You just need to push the band up a bit on your forehead to leave room for the sensor to contact your skin.

First Impressions from Interbike 2014

As I mentioned in the last issue, the annual Interbike trade show was held last week in Las Vegas. As always, Jim Langley and I were there to pound the show floor looking at what’s new across the spectrum of bikes, gear, tech, apparel and more – everything cycling.

We’ll start the process this week of telling you about what we saw, and we’ll continue it over the next year with ongoing product reviews and continuing coverage of the trends represented at the show. My report follows, and Jim’s can be found below in Tech Talk. You’ll notice that I’ve spent more time discussing “product groups and trends,” while Jim jumps right into mini product overviews. We hope our reports provide you with a good mix of things to consider.

Note that many of the products that captured our attention have not yet reached the market, so we’re providing pricing where we can, and links to the main company website if the specific product page is not yet available. We’re also including photos where available.

A Little ‘Quieter’ Than Some Years

The past couple of years featured some fairly revolutionary product introductions or big-ticket innovations, like electric shifting “trickling down” in the case of Shimano’s Ultegra Di2, more and different types of power systems (pedal-based, crankarm-based, etc.), and the migration of disc brakes into the road market.

This year it seemed that the technical innovation was more focused on accessories, including computers and trainers that maximize modern connectivity and integration, safety products, including “concussion-mitigating” helmets and a combination tail light-HD camera to record what happens behind you on the road, and tools, including numerous new ones from Park Tools and a new pump that is best described as a piece of art that doubles as a bike pump.

This year’s show also featured the introductions of new products from companies who’ve made their name in one area of cycling but introduced new wares in another area. And, of course, more new carbon models from wheel-makers, including more disc brake-compatible models to pair with that technology. From bikes to “wafels,” there’s always something new and cool for roadies. Following are a few of the highlights of what I saw. And Jim’s are below in Tech Talk. Again, look for in-depth reviews as some of these products reach the market.


Fly6 Combination Tail Light & HD Camera

This product was on my radar well before Interbike. In fact, I’ve already tested it for a product review, which you can find below, in News & Reviews.

I won’t take up any additional space here on the Fly6, other than to say that it won Outside magazine's Gear of the Show Award. See my review for full details.

MIPS Brain Protection System Helmets

I’ve been keeping an eye out for the inevitable migration of this technology from the MTB market into road helmets, and this was the year it has finally arrived, with a slew of new road helmets hitting the market soon.

MIPS, a Swedish technology company, touts its technology as “a new standard in helmet safety. Developed by brain surgeons and scientists to reduce rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head.” MIPS is the acronym for Multi directional Impact Protection System.

Helmets with MIPS feature a bright yellow low-friction layer (looks like a thin plastic skeleton - see the photo below) between the shell and the liner. MIPS helps mitigate the effects of an angled impact by allowing the helmet to slide relative to the head, according to the company, which licenses the technology to helmet makers. (You can read more on the MIPS website.)

At Interbike, I took a look at new road MIPS helmets from four well-known makers, including the Giro Savant, Smith Optics Overtake, POC Octal and Lazer Helium. Others, including Scott, make road models now, and MIPS promises more are on the way. A quick polling of some other helmet makers at Interbike showed that they’re taking a “wait and see” approach to whether the technology catches on, while only one outright dismissed it as a possibility in its helmets.

Most of the helmets have not yet reached the market, but when they do – or when test models become available – we’re hoping to test as many of the road models as we can and offer a “group review” of the new lids. It appears that MIPS models will feature a fairly wide price range, from around $110 to $270, as some makers are integrating the tech into older, established helmets, while others are producing completely new, higher end models. Stay tuned.

One other interesting new helmet on display was the Bell Star Pro (not a MIPS helmet), which features a removable lens (available in different tints) and a nifty slide on top of the lid that effectively closes the vents to make the helmet more aerodynamic. (That's the Star Pro on the right; at left is the POC Octal MIPS helmet.) It’s a combination of a number of features that have been introduced in recent years and was launched at the Tour de France this summer. When it reaches market in October, the price is expected to be $280.

New Products from “Other-Established” Companies

OK, that’s an awkward way of saying that a couple of companies who’ve made their name with one main type of product are now offering something quite different.

Namely, the venerable tire maker Vittoria has entered the wheel market. And Louis Garneau, known mainly as an apparel maker, has entered the bike market.

Vittoria is introducing a full line of wheels, including carbon tubular and clincher models. The idea behind a tire company making its own wheels can be seen in the tubular wheels, where “the internals of the shape is designed for the Vittoria tire,” said Stefan Anton, Vittoria’s project manager for wheels.

In addition to fit, the wheels are designed to maximize the aerodynamic profile in combination with Vittoria tires (and others). The first-year model carbon clinchers feature an aluminum brake track, but subsequent models will be full carbon, according to Anton. (It seems that many carbon wheel makers continue to offer a mix of both “hybrid” – those with an aluminum brake track – and full carbon clinchers. Choice is good.)

Vittoria’s wheels are expected to hit the market later in the year.

Louis Garneau’s new bikes for 2015 come a year after the company launched a series of carbon framesets on which the new, complete bikes are built.

LG offers a full range of bikes, in both men’s and women’s models, including TT and cross bikes. The road models range from lower-level Shimano Claris- and Sora-based models to one that really stood out to me: the Gennix E1 Elite – a model that features Di2 Ultegra 6870 11-speed on a 52-36 compact. The wheels are lower-end Shimano WH-RS010 models. But the price for this complete Ultegra Di2 bike is $3,700, according to Garneau’s U.S. sales director, David Cathart.

Compared to what continues to be a mind-bending trend toward ever-more-expensive high-end bikes (Trek just launched a new 10.25-pound model, the Emonda SLR 10, for just under $16,000), it’s a welcome counterpoint to see a company offer a complete bike with electric shifting that does not require raiding your retirement account.

New Computers Feature Integrated Connectivity

A couple of new bike computers that caught my eye are the Magellan Cyclo 505 and the Polar V650.

The Magellan is a Bluetooth- and ANT+-enabled GPS computer compatible with both Android and iOS phones, and various power meters, indoor trainers and other accessories that utilize these bedrock communications protocols. It has a color touch screen.

It connects to and syncs wirelessly to the website to download your ride data, and can automatically transfer data to Strava, with Training Peaks and Edomondo coming soon. It links to Di2 and can even help you refine your shifting. Magellan also features customizable ride profiles, full mapping and turn-by-turn directions and a cool “Surprise Me” feature that recommends up to 3 routes from which to choose if you’re in the mood for something different. Price: $429.99 without speed/cadence sensor and heart rate monitor; $499.99 for the complete bundle.

Polar’s new V650 GPS computer has similar features to Magellan’s but lacks the ANT+ connectivity and turn-by-turn directions. Its features include a 2.8-inch color touch screen (both the Magellan and Polar units are larger than the Garmin Edge 810), built-in barometric pressure sensor for accurate altitude data, instant post-ride analysis, functionality that helps you understand your training load and recovery needs, and the free Polar Flow app that allows you to plan and further analyze your training. You can also sync training data with your phone using Bluetooth Smart, either during or after a ride.

It’s a full-featured training-based computer that will be available in October and will retail for $200 without the heart rate monitor, and $239 with the HRM.

A Couple More Products Worth Noting

One product that I had been waiting a few months for – and finally got to see first-hand at Interbike – is the Selle Anatomica X Series saddle. In fact, I brought one home with me to test, the WaterShed Black model. These made in America road saddles retail for $159 and feature the unique cutout, and either real leather or Truleather models that have drawn raves from roadies for their comfort and longevity. In fact, a few RBR readers have written to me over the past several months asking why we haven’t tested a Selle Anatomica. Well, ask no more. Look for a review in the near future.

I read something about Park Tool Company introducing 50 new tools at Interbike. Jim mentions one that caught his fancy in his report. What most interested me was the new Park Tool Chain Whip Pliers. I’ve always thought using a chain whip to remove a cassette was a bit of a pain. I guess Park’s tool designers agreed. The new chain whip pliers allow you to simply grip the cassette between two chain pieces on either side of the giant pliers, easily holding it in place with very little tension needed. Great idea. Great tool.


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