RBR Newsletter

My Interbike Best of the Rest

Editor’s Note:  We continue our post-Interbike coverage today with a rundown of a number of additional products/trends that caught our attention. My “best of the rest” follow here, Paul Smith’s can be found in News & Reviews, and Jim Langley’s in Tech Talk.

--- John Marsh

My Interbike Best of the Rest

I spent more time this year at Interbike looking at products that represented bigger trends, vs. wandering the (massive) hall to see what caught my eye. Don’t get me wrong: I did some of that, too. The one constant about Interbike is that it is so massive there’s no way one person can come close to seeing everything at the show. So a plan and focus are helpful.

For one thing, I specifically wanted to follow up on MIPS helmet technology, which I covered in my Best of Interbike article last week as part of the safety innovations I noted.

But as I mentioned in that article, not every helmet maker has embraced MIPS, and new helmets continue to be introduced by some well-known cycling companies known for other products. But those that have adopted MIPS as the way forward continue to add it to their lines, some in ways that make it quite easy to understand just how much you’re paying for the “MIPS upgrade.”

Another significant trend I was following is – and I’ll beg your pardon for the use of the word – the “mainstreaming” of power meters.

At the same time start-ups are entering the market with new options that include self-setup or “mail in your crankarm for installation” in order to bring down the cost of their units, established power companies like Stages are significantly dropping their pricing to a level they hope to appeal to a broader cross-section of cyclists.

A power meter has long been considered by many recreational roadies as an “extravagance” that would be nice to have, but fell far down on the list of items (based mostly on the fairly high cost) that they would choose to spend a chunk of money on. With pricing on the downtrend, and more options than ever in the marketplace, it seems like the buying decision may be getting closer to “reasonable” for many roadies.

Power Continues to Mainstream

Indeed, without much effort, I saw close to 10 different power meter solutions at the show. And while my focus was on a couple of new-to-market options that usher in new approaches to obtaining power (I’ll get to those in a moment), I was also pleasantly surprised to see new, cheaper units from established makers, including Stages and Pioneer.

Stages Cycling, especially, seems to be taking a strong swing at finding some new, first-time customers by lopping $250 off its Dura-Ace models (from $899 to $649), dropping its Ultegra models from $799 to $579, and its 105 models from $699 to $529. (See the site for full details.) While dropping the price, the company has rolled out new, lower-profile units with improved battery doors, and now has units available for carbon -- and Campagnolo -- cranks. I was told that “technological and production efficiencies” from its first few years in business have allowed Stages to offer the significant price cuts while at the same time upgrading its units.

Pioneer, meanwhile, introduced a new single-side unit at the show (joining Stages, which offers only single-side units that attach to the left crankarm). Previously, Pioneer offered only double-sided (or dual-leg) options. The new Pioneer single-side units come in at $899 for Dura-Ace and $799 for Ultegra. The new meter is available only for Shimano cranks for now, but is expected to be rolled out to other makers’ cranks in the near future. Pioneer’s dual-leg set can be had for $999 now, but you need to ship your crankset to the company for installation. And the company has a $749 single-leg option that requires your mailing in your left crankarm.

Among the interesting offerings at Interbike was what is touted as “the first footbed cycling and running power meter in the world,” from RPM2. (These, apparently, have been in development for a couple of years, at least, as there is evidence of previous versions online.) It is, in effect, a pair of insoles that you pop into your shoes. Each insole contains 4 separate gauges in “quadrants,” in effect, allowing dual-leg power computations. The cycling version of the product sells for $599.

Another new approach to power launched at the show is from California-based Watteam, with its new Powerbeat dual-leg after-market solution. You buy the kit for $499 and do the installation yourself, using the series of slick Youtube videos Watteam has created, along with its proprietary jig for exact alignment, glue and water bags to calibrate the system. The idea is to “make some of the setup the responsibility of the user,” thus allowing the lower price, said Ofir Gal-on, co-founder and CEO. “Keep your conservative technology, and make it an add-on tech. This is the way you can bring power to the people.” The Powerbeat system is set to ship by Christmas, according to Gal-on.

Finally, an even less-expensive single-side alternative is offered by Canadian company 4iiii Innovations. Its Precision meter goes for $399 and, like Pioneer’s add-on versions, requires you to ship your own left crankarm to the company for factory installation. The Precision meter is compatible only with aluminum cranks, including most of Shimano’s road cranks, and a limited number of others. See the site for details.

Bike Storage Solutions

Steady Rack is a well-designed wall-rack system for individual bikes. Attach it to the wall of your home, garage, shed, or wherever you store your rides, and rest the front tire in the fold-down metal “hanger.” A small block also attached to the wall holds the rear wheel in place. The cool feature is that the “hanger” swivels in both directions, allowing you to put numerous bikes in close proximity side-by-side and simply swivel them to access one particular bike. The single-bike Classic rack sells for $69.99. A new Fender rack will be available soon for $74.99 that allows you to store a bike with a fender mounted.

Velogrip offers 2- and 3-bike storage racks, and an indoor “Loft” version, all of which feature a stout metal bar that attaches to the wall, with swiveling hooks on which you hang bikes with a velcro’ed piece of strong nylon material. These racks, like the Steady Rack, allow you to swivel the bikes in either direction and “flatten” them against the wall to save space. The Velogrip racks also feature a nylon sling shelf across the top on which you can store various bike gear. The Loft models sell for $229 for the 2-bike model and $249 for the 3-bike. The Original models sell for $239 and $269, respectively, for 2- and 3-bike racks. They come in a variety of colors.

Trimetals offers a bike storage shed from England that is apparently quite popular in British “gardens” across the country. The nifty watertight and lockable solution is now offered through an American distributor and sells for $999. Purpose-built for bikes, it features a unique folding door/roof that pulls up and back in one motion, providing ready access to your bikes.

Helmet Tech Innovations

I discussed MIPS helmet tech last week (click to see our review of a number of MIPS road helmets from earlier this year), noting that it is spreading across makers’ lines, into both high-end and low-end helmets. In the case of Lazer, it’s gone from the mid-level Helium to the top-of-the-line Z1 (in which it will cost $30 more than the non-MIPS Z1), as well as down the line into a $130 road helmet.

Lazer is also representative of another welcome trend: built-in LED flashers in the back of helmets. It will offer them across its line, in 21 different models, as do a number of other makers. It may add a few grams, but it’s yet another safety element that makes perfect sense.

Lazer has one more innovation in its lids. In addition to upgrading LifeBEAM’s bio-sensing technology into its Z1 helmet (much lighter than the Genesis helmet it was relegated to previously), Lazer is also rolling out after-market LifeBEAM sensor packages that can be fit into existing helmets. The sensor measures your heart rate and calories burned, mitigating the need for a HR strap. (Click to see our review of the LifeBEAM helmet.)

Smith has 4 MIPS models in its line, each priced at $40 more than the non-MIPS versions, making it quite easy to know how much the upgrade will set you back.

As I mentioned last week, though, not all the big-time helmet makers have embraced MIPS (Kask and Catlike among them), and a couple of other well-known cycling companies are introducing helmets that will not, initially at least, use MIPS.

Bolle, known mostly for its eye wear, will roll out a new helmet called “The One.” ABUS, the German company known for its innovative locks, is also introducing a new helmet line. And Uvex, which made a splash at Interbike with its Variotronic S sunglasses (which Paul Smith featured among his “best of show” products last week, has a slick new aero helmet, not yet approved by regulators, that is expected  to roll out in late 2015 or early 2016.

(See more on the new Bolle helmet, as well as a MIPS-alternative lid, in Paul Smith’s article in News & Reviews.)

Rolf Prima Wheels

Among the ever-growing universe of wheel makers, some of the bigger players (think, 3- and 4-letter names, French companies, et al) tend to get the lion’s share of interest. But there remain small American companies that continue to compete. One of those is Rolf Prima, a 15-person Eugene, Oregon-based company.

All its wheels are hand-built on-site in Eugene using proprietary hubs made especially for Rolf Prima by venerable accessories maker White Industries, and laced with industry standard Sapim spokes in the paired-spoke layup for which it’s known. Like every carbon wheel maker today, the carbon goodies are made in the ubiquitous factories of Asia, which have unmatchable infrastructure and experience.

Rolf Prima offers full carbon hoops in 42mm and 62mm depths, and has just introduced a 35mm wheel for 2016 – tabbed as a climbing wheel with aero properties – which comes in a 1,340g and costs $2,399. Most have disc brake options, and of note is that the company has only one carbon wheel in its lineup with an aluminum brake track, a 58mm offering. Two price points are available for each wheel based on whether you choose steel or ceramic bearings.

Trunk Monkey

We wrote a couple of months ago about this ingenious carry-it-yourself inflatable bike rack for cars. But seeing it in person cemented what a unique, quite useful product this is.

The Trunk Monkey folds up into a package roughly the size of a touring-sized seat bag and weighs 7 pounds (3.2kg), including the electric pump. Just like a seat bag, tt can be attached to the seat tube and saddle rails of most any bike. At $139 MSRP, it seems ideal not just for bike commuters who may find themselves in need of a lift home in the event of inclement weather, or a “show-stopper” breakdown, but also for anyone who wants to easily store a small rack in their car just to have on hand to tote an extra bike in a pinch.

The founder, Tyler Nelson, told me that getting caught out in a massive thunderstorm one day, and being unable to accept a ride from a friend because there was no rack for his bike, was the genesis of the Trunk Monkey. He’s now developing a multi-bike version that can also carry skis, etc. According to the company website, the Monkey is set to begin shipping in October.

Nikola Zivo Pedals

These pedals from Nikola Innovation may be the answer to those who suffer from various knee and hip problems. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, they “outsway” – or move laterally up to a 25mm maximum – thus allowing your leg and hip to assume a more natural position through the bottom of the stroke, somewhat akin to the motion of speed-skating. The Look Keo-compatible pedals come in 450g stainless steel ($199) and soon in 320g titanium sets. The motion itself feels quite natural on a test trainer and is claimed to be more efficient, provide a power boost and be easier on the knee and hip joints.

Otto – the Auto-Tune System

We heard from Otto before the show, and Jim Langley already is testing this ingenious system that automatically helps you precision-tune your bike’s shifting using the camera on your smart phone. Look for more on this from Jim in the near future.

CycleAware Frame Backpack, Epic ID

We also heard from Epic ID ahead of Interbike. (It’s a sister company of products maker CycleAware, which makes some great mirrors, cycling backpacks – check out the nifty frame backpack – and other accessories).

I’ve been testing an Epic ID for a few weeks now. It’s a silicon bracelet with a built-in flash drive on which you can easily store all of your contact, medical and health-related information so that any emergency responder can simply insert the flash drive into a laptop USB port to instantly access this critical data.

It couldn’t be easier to set up. You simply plug it into a USB port on your own computer and input your info. You’re done. You can also, and equally easily, cut the silicon band to size to fit your wrist perfectly. Now, wear the bracelet on every ride for yet another boost in personal safety. I’ve found it to be completely comfortable and unobtrusive. It’s waterproof and even saltwater-safe. The Epic ID sells for $35.

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