The Aficionados: Because It's Stronger, Faster, Lighter...and Looks Really Cool

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1996

The Aficionados: Because It's Stronger, Faster, Lighter...and Looks Really Cool

The latest and greatest in accessories, as flaunted by the gearheads of Cycle Club Basingstoke
By Alan Coté

In the inevitable race for first-kid-on-the-block status, it helps to have both a healthy income and a not-quite-as-healthy propensity toward obsessive gewgaw lust. Which is why, after an exhaustive two-month search for the most hard-core species of gearhead we could find, we've hooked up with members of Cycle Club Basingstoke--an ultracompetitive, 150-plus-member racing team from Boston's affluent North Shore--for a sneak preview of this year's best and brightest equipment. Often it is within the ranks of CCB, where old-fashioned Yankee tightfistedness grudgingly gives way to an all-consuming passion for over-the-top mountain-bike gear, that the newest stuff makes its public debut for us slightly less obsessed enthusiasts. "These people are serious," warns Steve Pucci, owner of Northeast Bikes in Saugus, Massachusetts. "They give me deposits on components that they know won't be available for months." On the rocky coast of Marblehead, seven CCB riders showed us their latest, giving us a chance to dream while inspiring a slightly dangerous case of schnick-schnock envy.

Sidi MTB Eagle Shoes
Sidi's latest offering brings high-tech off-road hardware to an oft-overlooked area: your feet. The biggest improvement here is the Microlock buckle, which makes a fabulous ratcheting sound as you tighten it down. But the buckle is more than a gizmo--it allows you to adjust fit easily on the fly. The lug soles are like knobby tires on your feet and then some: They're drilled to accept metal spikes for serious mud-clawing when you have no choice but to carry your bike. $175; 800-991-0070.

Bell Image Pro Helmet
Unless your head happens to be egg-shaped, most helmets will shift around when you're riding on rough trails. But Bell's Image Pro stays firmly on your noggin, thanks to its new "Full Nelson" fit system, the key to which is a thin plastic band in the rear of the helmet that snugs just below the occipital bone. Meanwhile, the removable visor on the front of the Image Pro keeps sun, rain, and flying mud from fouling your eyes. $80; 800-456-2355.

Manito Mach 5SX Suspension Fork
Never mind that the Mach 5SX is a bargain among high-end shocks--it's still built to handle the worst abuse you can dish out. The boing-boing comes from elastomer springs with oil damping, both of which can easily be adjusted on-trail. The result is fine-tuned suspension that smooths-over little rocks and big boulders alike. The Mach 5SX also addresses a major problem with suspension forks--the propensity for each arm to move independently--with integrated outer legs that keep both sides working in harmony. $390; 805-257-4411.

Killer Loop Xtreme Pro 2 Sunglasses
Cyclists need more from their shades than the standard 100 percent UV protection and haute couture design. The Xtreme Pro 2 glasses sit tight on your face, which keeps wind out of your eyes and ensures that your specs won't get launched on rough trails. Single-track enthusiasts will also like Killer Loop's Water Clear Coating, available on some models, which the company says makes its lenses eight times more scratch-resistant than other polycarbonates. $99; 800-343-5594.

ESP900 Rear Derailleur
A few years ago, shifting mechanisms were the exclusive domain of Shimano, until Chicago-based SRAM entered the fray with its now-ubiquitous Grip Shift system. Now SRAM innovates again with the ESP900 rear derailleur, the first mass-produced American-made chain mover in more than a decade. It's certainly a competitive alternative: The ESP900 shaves 50 grams from the weight of Shimano's derailleurs with carbon-composite material. But be prepared to cough up a little extra for the ESP900 shifters--they're the only ones that work with this derailleur. Derailleur, $140; shifters, $95; 312-664-8800.

Sweet Wings Crankset
Yes, you can buy an entry-level bike for the price of this crankset, and yes, we're aware that this doesn't even include chainrings. But these arms are both extraordinarily light and stiff. Instead of two solid cranks joined by an axle, the Sweet Wings uses two hollow, L-shaped chrome-moly arms that meet at your bike's frame, thus eliminating the heavy axle and making the whole set-up nearly flex-proof. But then, for $450, should you expect anything less? 800-328-9362.

Shimano V-Brake
Once again, Shimano has revolutionized a key component--this time with the stop-in-an-instant V-Brake, which is far more powerful than its predecessors and puts an end to uneven brake-pad wear and the need for frequent adjustments. The one caveat is that the V-Brake works best when paired with its own special levers. Calipers, $110; levers, $125.

Pearl Izumi Zephrr Vest
Trying to keep your chest warm on those long, breezy downhills without adding an extra layer of bulk to your aerodynamically protected back? Look no further than Pearl Izumi's Zephrr Vest, which keeps you toasty with a wind- and water-resistant coated polyester in front while providing extra breathability with an all-mesh backside. And for those endlessly hot-and-cold roller-coaster trails, the vest squeezes down to the size of about two energy bars for easy pocket stuffing. $50; 800-877-7080.

The Civilized Cyclist
Consider cutting a check to Pedals for Progress. The New Jersey-based nonprofit group, which distributes used bicycles in such impoverished nations as Mozambique, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, has plenty of bikes but needs money to ship them overseas. To contribute, call David Schweidenback at 908-638-4811.

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