We’ve spent the past few days handing out Gear of the Show awards at Interbike, the annual cycling industry convention in Las Vegas. From a smart commuter light that could save your life to the most beautiful bike bell we've ever seen, here are our five picks for the most exciting gear of 2017.
Knog Oi Bell ($20)
We’ve long admired this Aussie company’s design-driven take on commonplace items such as lights and locks. They’ve wowed us again, this time with the lowly bike bell. Launched on Kickstarter earlier this year, the Knog Oi forgoes the clunky dome design of most bells for a clean-looking alloy band the resembles a piece of jewelry for your handlebars.
The sound is both resonant and beautiful—“like an angel playing a glockenspiel,” according to Knog—but what really impresses us is the spare design. The plastic collar slips around pretty much any cylindrical bar and straps down with a single hex screw, while the chime comes from a diminutive, built-in thumb hammer that strikes the outer, alloy cuff. Channels in the plastic allow for clean cable routing and management beneath the bell. The Oi comes in two sizes (to fit everything from 22.2 up to 31.8 millimeter bars) and four finishes (black, brass, copper, and silver), which means it will look good with any bike—antique or mod, mountain or road.
Rawland Ulv ($3,000; $950 Frame Set)
The lines between bike styles and genres continue to blur, so much so that we’re not completely certain whether to call the Rawland Ulv (Norse for wolf) a mountain or road machine. But one thing is for sure: with 3.5-inch Panaracer tires on 27.5-inch rims, this drop-bar randonneuring bike is capable of taking on pretty much any terrain.
Built of a custom-drawn, triple-butted 4130 chromoly steel, which should make for a whip-cream smooth ride, the geometry is low and long (460-millimeter chain stays) for stability and easing cruising over long distances. The bike’s head angle is steep, but the raked-forward fork design should make for steady, easygoing steering and handling, especially with the front rack loaded. And clearly the Ulv is meant for carrying gear, with five water bottle cage bosses (including a pair of triple mounts on the fork) and rack mounts out back. And while that might sound like your dad’s old touring bike, the Ulv is also fully modern, thanks to Boost hub spacing, thru axles front and rear, a 1x11 SRAM Rival drivetrain, and SRAM hydraulic disc brakes.
Bikepacking is one of the buzzwords of this show, with dozens of new pack, tent, and gear options for riders to get off the beaten path. And as far as we can tell, the plus-size Ulv might just be the most interesting and entertaining rig we’ve seen for loading up up your gear and getting yourself into the backcountry.
Rocky Mounts MonoRail Swing Hitch Rack ($530)
We’re already major fans of hitch-style, wheels-on bike racks for their ease of use and the safety they afford for our costly rides. But the one drawback has been that all that heft out back blocks tailgates and rear hatches. Until now.
The Rocky Mounts MonoRail Swing carries two bikes on a two-inch receiver hitch and, thanks to two built-in pivots and a locking mechanism, allows the rack to swing completely clear and to the right of the vehicle, even with bikes on board. It’s the first swing-away design from a major rack manufacturer. And it means that you can quickly swivel bikes out of your way so you can easily load and unload groceries. Or if you’re out camping, you can access other gear or even sleep in the back of your rig while still leaving your bikes on the rack and safely locked.
The rack holds wheels from 20” to 29” and has clearance for fat bikes, including those with Bluto forks and 197-millimeter spacing. There’s also an add-on ($150) for a third bike, but because of the weight constraints of the pivot mechanism, you won’t be able to add a fourth.
Fabric FLR30 Light ($40)
With conflicts between cyclists and motorists on the rise we’re always looking for greater visibility when we ride, and this clever light packs a lot of safety innovation into a small package. It's a 30-lumen taillight that's not much bigger or heavier than a tube of lip balm, but it incorporates an accelerometer that changes the light pattern based on whether you are moving or at rest in order to get drivers' attention.
When riding in either solid setting (high or low), the light glows even brighter when you come to a stop. And in the two flashing modes (slow or fast), it burns solid at rest. Fabric says the change in burn pattern helps catch drivers’ eyes and makes sure they see you.
The FLR30 is USB-rechargeable and burns for between eight and 12 hours depending on the setting. Two chamfered edges on the light body allow it to snap into a plastic mounting bracket, which attaches to handlebars, seat posts, helmets, or almost anywhere, and allows the device to sit vertically, horizontally, or anywhere in between.
Coros Linx Helmet ($200)
We all know you shouldn’t wear headphones while riding because of the risk of traffic accidents (in many states, it’s illegal), but the draw of music means almost everyone does it occasionally. The Coros Linx smart helmet, launched on Kickstarter and shipping later this fall, makes it possible to safely listen to music and field calls from the saddle.
The Linx looks and feels like any other road helmet except for two, half dollar-size pods on the temple straps. These bone conduction speakers transmit audio through thin bones above your ear canals, leaving your ears open to everything else going on while riding. Sound quality is solid, if not high-fidelity.
The helmet and the handlebar-mount remote connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to your smart phone, which makes it possible to manage audio without taking your hands off the bars. And a wind-resistant, two-way microphone makes it possible to receive calls. Coros even has a free app for setting routes and tracking your progress and stats, meaning you can get turn-by-turn directions through the speakers as you ride.
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