The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Biking

Brand New Bags for Summer and Fall

The Outdoor Retailer show is just around the corner. And new product announcements are rolling in fast. Here's a quick look at some of the most promising bags we'll see in outdoor stores this summer and fall.

Boreas1

BOREAS BOOTLEGGER: This 3-in-1 adventure bag, the "Russian Dolls" of day packs, is designed to be used as a single unit, or in any one of three separate configurations, depending on what kind of excursion you’re on. Boreas calls the outer bag the Scrimshaw Dry Bag. This 11oz, 30-liter bag is made from rough and tough triple ripstop nylon with an extra heavy duty bottom. It’s fully taped to keep your gear from getting wet even when submersed, and its big enough to fit the Hopper Day Pack if you need your day bag to be fully waterproof.

The 28-liter ripstop nylon Hopper also has a burly reinforced bottom, as well as two-way stretch front panel pockets. And, inside it’s an organized commuter day pack.

The third part of the system is Boreas' 13-liter Torpedo Hydration Bag. This minimalist biking or hiking hydration pack has stretch front panel pockets (Boreas’ signature detail). And it fits inside the daypack. Having a hard time picturing it? Here's a visual aid:

Boreas 2

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Behind the Scenes: How 'Outside' Reviews Bikes

Survey the road bike spreadSurveying the road bike spread at Gates Pass.

Reviewed. I’m always amazed how different magazines and blogs interpret that word. Some publications call in a product, use it a time or two, and then print their opinions—which yields a pretty cursory and fleeting impression. Others scan the Web for ideas and reviews and dress up some background knowledge and trips to media launches as critical advice. And then there are the “buyer’s guides,” which pose as gear critiques even though they are often nothing more than product listings and prices.

At Outside, we're demanding about our reviews, especially when it comes to bikes. Our bike reviews are the result of a months-long undertaking that involves some 100 bikes, dozens of testers, and thousands of miles of riding.

Consideration on the bikes that you see in our reviews in the Summer Buyer’s Guide and May print edition actually begins eight months before the magazines hit the stands at Interbike, the industry trade show where we scour the floor for the most interesting- and innovative-looking rides. In the weeks following the show, we begin contacting manufacturers for their products, and the bikes begin pouring in to our local bike shop, The Broken Spoke Santa Fe, which unboxes and builds them up. Meanwhile, I—along with a host of editors and testers—do my best to log a couple of hours on each test bike by New Year's.

A truck full of bikes26 feet of Penske, loaded with 2013 bikes.

Testing begins in earnest in early January—this week. After humping all the bikes to Tucson (56 of them in a Penske this year, and a handful are still on the way), we assemble a dozen testers a day and spend a week riding in circles. Each day is devoted to a different genre (XC Race, for instance, or aero road), and from 8 a.m. 'til 3 p.m. we ride hour-long test loops, stopping between each lap to record our thoughts and trade bikes. At night there’s bourbon-fueled discussion of the bikes we rode that day and lots of tubes to patch.

By the end of week, we amass around 300 review forms, which become the basis for choosing the bikes that make the magazine. The top mountain and road picks become our Gear of the Year winners. And then comes the least enviable part of the process: boxing up all the beat-up bikes and shipping them back.

Over the next week we’ll be zinging around the cactus-lined trails and rough back roads around Tucson to pick our favorite bikes of 2013. Check back here for pictures, initial impressions, and tales of the desert shenanigans. And if you have questions about the tests, send them along.

—Aaron Gulley

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Garmin Launches Edge 510 and 810 GPS Cycling Computers

Extending its already formidable lead in the category, Garmin has launched two new powerful GPS cycling computers that will eventually replace the Edge 500 and Edge 800 units. The new Garmin Edge 810 and Edge 510 look to be about as slick as this highly-produced video made to promote the computers. The 810 keeps the same dimensions and form as its predecessor, while the 510 gets even smaller and more compact than the 500, and adds a touchscreen display that's readable in sunlight.

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Platypus Introduces Streamlined Hydration Packs

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Hydration packs aren’t always the most exciting subject. They have a reservoir to hold your drink, they stash your tools and food and your gear. They often have straps that, sure, can draw your load in toward your body, but they sometimes flap and snap and sting when you’re maching downhill.

Platypus’ new cross-country cycling hydration packs are a different breed. Ultralight storage for minimalist MTB rides, these sport-specific packs have superior ventilation, fit, and good gear organization. And they’re cleaner than other packs—bullet shaped with nothing to flap or snap.

PLATYPUS TOKUL X.C. 3.0 is the smallest and most minimalist pack in the line, just the ticket for riders who’d rather not carry a pack. If all you need is hydration, fuel, and tools for basic trail-side triage, this is the bag for you. It comes with one liter of gear storage, a liter reservoir, an external tool pocket, and an internal pump sleeve. Available in five-liter and eight-liter versions, January 2013, $70-$90.

If ultralight XC isn’t your gig, not to worry. The XC packs are just one piece of Platypus’ new hydration pack line, which also include all-mountain, biking, and hiking packs.

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Year in Review: The 11 Best Cycling Products of 2012

We test bike gear year-round at Outside, from our desert test trip in January and endurance races like the Arizona Trail Race, Breck Epic, and Triple Bypass, to daily road and trail rides here in Santa Fe (including snow biking just this week). In the process, we beat the bejeezus out of lots of gear, and while much of it these days is very good, there are often a handful of items that we come back to again and again. With our 2013 test trip to Tucson coming up next week, we decided this was the perfect moment to highlight the top pieces of bike gear that impressed us most in 2012.

Crank Brothers Kronolog

01. CRANK BROTHERS KRONOLOG
This dropper post impressed us more than any other piece of gear this year. Crank Brothers replaced the hydraulic internals of the uneven Joplin with an all-mechanical design that has stood up to nine months of hard wear. We prefer the Kronolog’s infinite height adjustment to other brands' two- or three- stage configurations, as well as the simplicity of the air spring for slowing or speeding the post’s return rate. This is not only a huge improvement from Crank Brothers’ original design, but it’s darn near our favorite dropper on the market, and we recommend it on any bike except for your lightest weight racer.

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