The Coolest Cycling Tech of 2015
The future is gear.
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Every June, about 30 bike industry manufacturers gather in Park City, Utah, to unveil their most compelling products for the upcoming model year. It’s a good time to get a sense of what’s trending and which new technologies to watch in 2015.
Some highlights: Following the damaging recall last winter, SRAM debuted its fully revamped line of hydraulic disc road brakes, including the brand-new third-tier Rival group set, signaling its commitment to the technology.
Carbon wheels also continue to proliferate, with fresh mountain lineups from Reynolds and Enve, plus a road model called the Firestrike 404 that Zipp says finally resolves the issue of poor performance of rim brakes on carbon (though at $3,700 per set, they’re likely not a viable solution for most riders).
Here are some of new gadgets and toys for 2015 that we can’t wait to get our hands on.
Smith Overtake Helmet
Las year, the Sun Valley, Idaho, optics manufacturer jumped into the cycling helmet market with the Forefront, a full-coverage, all-mountain lid that was lighter and, according to the company, more protective than other comparable models thanks to its use of Koroyd. The honeycomb-shaped material is said to absorb 30 percent more energy on impact than traditional EPS foam while simultaneously adding ventilation.
Now Smith is back with the Overtake, a road and XC model that uses the same materials and construction in a trimmer design. Though Smith didn’t set out to build an aero helmet, the company says that the Overtake tests somewhere between the Giro Air Attack and Specialized Evade in the wind tunnel—though there’s no word on how it compares to the just-launched Giro Synthe.
The helmet’s channeling isn’t only for ventilation and looks; it also provides stable storage for your sunglasses. The Overtake weighs 250 grams and will hit stores later this summer for a premium $250—or even more eye-popping $310 with MIPS, technology that reduces rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head.
Fabric ALM Saddle
The makers of Charge bikes—a UK urban and utility marque with a cult following—have created a new accessories brand, Fabric, starting with saddles.
Fabric is offering a full complement of models that use vacuum-bonding technology to excise material for a lighter, less expensive product. Even more interesting is the ALM, which Fabric designed in cooperation with Airbus using 3-D printing.
The original plan was to sell the 3-D-printed units, but the $750 price tag proved too expensive. Instead, Fabric found a manufacturer that could lay up the full-carbon unit in a single mold, a first for saddle technology. The top-of-the line carbon-only ALM weighs just 120 grams, and Fabric claims that the leaf-spring rail design makes it far more comfortable than similar-looking products.
The ALM will be available in the fall for $330. Cannondale will also stock buffalo-leather versions on its Black Inc. bikes for 2015.
Reynolds Black Label Wheels
The company that owns the patent for carbon-fiber clinchers has revamped its mountain bike line with higher-performance hubs and lower prices. The Black Label wheels mate Reynolds’ existing mountain rims to custom black-on-black DT240S hubs for wheelsets that are as light and strong as anything else out there.
At $2,400 per set, they’re not cheap, but they do cost less than offerings from the company’s closest competitor, Enve, which manufactures right up the road from Reynolds.
The Black Label wheels are available now in four models: 29 XC (1,440 grams), 29 TR (1,500 grams), 27.5 XC (1,435 grams), and 27.5 AM (1,530 grams). All wheels ship with end-cap adapters for conversion to any hub format, including thru-axles and quick release.
BKool Connect Sport Trainer
It might sound crazy, but this trainer actually has me a little excited for indoor riding season. The Connect Sport ($650) is a wireless ANT+ resistance trainer controlled via home computer. The system taps into a Web-accessible archive of tracks, collected via iPhone or GPS by users and BKool employees, and allows you to ride them in the comfort of your home.
If you have a favorite training ride, you simply run the BKool app when you ride it, upload that to the cloud, and next time it’s snowing out, just plug in and do the workout inside. The BKool software reads the GPX data and adjusts the resistance accordingly so you get the exact same experience.
You can follow your progress on a map or even upload video so you can ride along with visual cues. It’s possible to ride anyone’s track on the network for free, but you’ll need a $15-per-month subscription to access video-enabled rides. BKool is currently plumping up the video offerings with race footage from Pro Tour events and workouts on Europe’s most famous cols and climbs. It’s even possible to challenge others on the system to try your routes or race other riders in real time, with no limit on the number of simultaneous racers.
CamelBak Podium Ice Bottle
CamelBak launched the Podium Ice ($25) a few years ago but had to discontinue the bottles when it could no longer source the insulation. Now the thermal bottles are back in time for summer, and if you don’t have a couple, you should hurry out and get them.
The Podium Ice is said to keep drinks cold four times longer than a standard bottle, and based on our experience it’s probably even more than that. Last weekend, on a 95-degree day in Santa Fe, our ice-filled Skratch stayed chilled for almost five hours, which is a lot longer than the company’s less-insulating Podium Chill.
On a stifling day, an icy beverage helps keep your core temperature down and, therefore, your power output high. One word of caution: The extra height of this bottle makes it a bit top-heavy, so make sure you have good, grippy cages if you plan to use it for mountain biking.
Stan’s No Tubes Hugo 52 Rim
The original proponents of tubeless are bringing the advantages of riding without tubes—better traction and the ability to run lower pressures without pinch-flatting—to the fat-bike market. The Hugo is a 52-millimeter rim that’s built to make sealing fat tires easier and keep the tires on the rim bead even with pressures down to the extreme low PSIs often run with big wheels.
Unlike the Whisky 70W carbon rim, which has a recessed channel on its interior, the aluminum Hugo’s unique design raises the spoke bed by way of a box-section channel. According to Stan’s, this keeps the tire from sinking into the middle of the rim and interfering with the rim tape, and it puts the tire bead in better contact with the rim wall. The Hugo 52 will come in 26-, 27.5-, and 29-inch options, with bare rims available for $145 each and complete wheels built around No Tube’s 330 Disc hubs for $700 per set.