Outdoor Retailer's Best Bike Gear
The Salt Lake City trade show isn't a venue for the big bicycle manufacturers, but if you know where to look there's plenty of new swag for the two-wheel crowd. Here are a few of the most exciting bike bits and parts announced at OR.
IceBreaker GT150 Short-Sleeve Team Jersey ($130) I've been riding in IceBreaker's first gen of cycling gear for almost a year now, and it definitely lives up to the company's reputation for some of the finest merino on the market, with trim tailoring, well-executed details like sculpted rear pockets and zipper garages at the neck lines, and sharp styling. My only complaint was that, while perfect for fall and spring riding, the 200-weight wool was just a touch heavy for hot summer days. For spring 2012, the company is adding super fine 150-weight merino to the line, with a range of jerseys, meaning that I can now enjoy the soft hand, cool feel, and stink-resisting properties of this top-shelf wool year round.
FiveTen Maltese Falcon This climbing shoe company has virtually ruled the downhill footwear market since it jumped in a few years ago, largely because there's pretty much nothing better for keeping your feet glued to platform pedals than its sticky rubber soles. As evidence, Five Ten has just signed trials sensation Danny MacAskill and launched a new signature series shoe designed (with MacAskill's input) to keep him upright on the bike. Five Ten is also looking to gain traction (ahem!) in the all-mountain realm this year, with its stiff-but-light SPD-compatible Maltese Falcon. Action Sports Director Luke Hontz says an even lighter, carbon-shanked shoe is in the works for the XC crowd.
Tern Bicycles Verge X20 ($3,500) A new entrant to the bike market (with plenty of experience gleaned from years at rival Dahon), Tern Bicycles is out to marry folding-bike utility to high-performance ride quality. The company debuts with 22 models, all of which use new folding technology, strong joints, and reinforced frame designs for a stiffer ride and better performance. The company's top-end offering, the Verge X20, might only have 20-inch wheels (designed by wheel master Rolf Dietrich), but it's spec'd out with road riding finery (think SRAM Red drivetrain, a specially designed FSA 55/42 crankset, and plenty of other high-end components) and weighs just 20 pounds according to the company. I was also taken with BioLogic, a sister company that's supplying Tern with hard goods, including a trick cycling app for iPhones, the ReeCharge Case that mounts your iPhone to the bars, and the smart Joule II Dynamo Hub that charges your phone while you ride.
Outdoor Research Sensor Dry Pocket ($25 for smartphone size; $35 for tablet) The inevitable dilemma of listening to music (or even just carrying your phone) on the trail is how to protect your expensive gadget from inclement weather and sweat. OR's genius little dry bag fits a smart phone snugly, has a clear window that's touch-screen compatible, and, best of all, sports a water-sealed headphone cable jack that keeps your unit buttoned-up at all times. If you're like me, this little gizmo will mean the end to a constant string of Zip-Locks.
FootBalance Performance Footbed No matter how nice of bike shoes you get, if you're riding stock insoles you could be propagating imbalances in your body and causing yourself unnecessary pain. This Finnish insole company is bringing orthotic foot support technology to a mass market with a fit and scan system that lets you get a fully custom footbed in less than 30 minutes at one of their retailers. A specialist consults with you about your usage, does a computer scan of your feet to determine any special arch, pronation, and support needs, and then heat molds footbeds to your dogs while you wait. The new Performance Footbed is thin and firm enough for use in road cleats but still supportive and cushy enough to compensate for foot problems.
Smith PivLock V2 and V2 Max ($160) Though I've never been a huge fan of Terminator-style sport glasses, after a season in the the original PivLocks I can say there aren't many better riding glasses out there. The second generation, available in November, keep the same quick-change temple technology and multi-lens convenience, but add an articulating nosepiece that will improve fit. It might seem like a small tweak, but the difference (at least for my uneven nose) felt immediately and dramatically better.
Deuter Compact EXP Air 10 ($100) With technology trickled down from its line of mountain packs, this little day pack is one of the sleekest looking new hydration packs I've seen in a while. Though there's lots of organization pockets and even a built-in rain cover, you wouldn't know it from the stripped-down, tucked-away exterior. I love the hip-belt pockets for gels, electrolyte pills, and trash from bars. More than anything, however, the new harness system that keeps the weight off your back with a stretch-mesh suspended on the frame, looks like it should be exceedingly comfy.
Arc'teryx Trino ($200) Though it's not aimed directly at cyclists, this soft-shell jacket is destined to become a mainstay in my fall and winter riding closet. With Gore Windstopper on the front and the company's highly breathable Altasarias fabric on the back of the sleeves, sides, and back, it should cut the chill on the bike nicely while still allowing the heat and moisture to vent. And just try and find me a biker who won't appreciate Arc'teryx's attention to detail (see the cozy anti-chafe collar, stretch-knit cuffs, and zippers that can be opened with a simple yank on the jacket).
Camelbak Charge LR ($100) When I first heard about the idea of a fanny pack-shaped hydration reservoir (think: wing-shaped bladder that rests in your lumbar area), I wrote it off as a solution to a problem that didn't exist. But I've been riding in the Charge LR mountain bike pack now for a few months, and I have to admit that it works great. This year's Octane LR already debuted the idea for the 700c crowd, but I think the Octane shows off the real advantages here, namely new weight distribution that dramatically cuts the unwieldiness of sloshing water when you're throwing your bike around on the trails. I also like how trim the pack upper is as it feels like it almost disappears when you're riding. This piece is so good that we named it one of our ten Gear of the Show pics. My only criticism is that the bladder is currently available only in two liters, though I'm sure a bigger capacity is on the way.