What's Cool In Road Cycling

Cool Bits: Press Camp Tech

Bike Press Camp/ Park City UT/ Summer 2010: While the world’s cycling press had a chance to see and demo a lot of cool gear coming for 2010, it’s only now that I’ve spent some real hours living with some of the gear we saw. Here’s what’s cool from Cateye, Gore RideOn Cables, and DeFeet.

For just it’s second year, Bike Press Camp felt like something much more established. Maybe it’s the nature of the bike biz – it’s really smaller than you think, and eventually we all end up working together – or maybe it’s because many of us began friendships or working together after last year’s camp, but this was more like a reunion of old friends than a chance to meet new clients.

Although the 3 day event is organized as morning one-one product sessions between the world’s cycling media and a select group of bike industry participants, followed by afternoon riding of both road and mountain bikes, (ie: test sessions), the best parts are the ‘off hours’ – the lunches and dinners where everyone actually gets to talk about things other than bikes (it’s true~) and get to know each other way beyond what’s possible at the more traditional trade shows.

The Deer Valley Resort at Park City Utah hosted the 2nd Bike Press Camp at over 7000 feet up.

This is what makes Bike Press camp really different and worthwhile. It’s human nature to prefer working with people we know, and by nature we gravitate to old friends before accepting the new acquaintances. But by the end of the week, pretty much everyone there had added to their personal list of ‘old friends’.

From a consumer perspective, that hopefully means you’ll be reading better tech articles to help you make more informed decisions on what gear you should try and buy.

But when it comes to really testing gear, there’s little of value we can learn in an afternoon ride session, especially when we’re trying to ride a few different bikes & gear all on the same ride. Fans of PEZ-Tech will know we prefer to live with a product for several weeks before we start touting its benefits.

Regardless, even with the short exposures to the gear at press camp, there was still a lot of interesting and cool stuff we saw, that’s worth passing on. Here’s some of the hilights…

I’ll admit to going cold turkey on bike computers on the past few months, due to a bad run of luck with a variety of data trackers that just would not set up easily, talk reliably to their sensors, or function as intended. I’ll admit to also being discouraged by the seemingly category-wide pandemic of poorly written, almost undecipherable instruction manuals, or in some cases instruction sheets that fold open like those silver survival blankets.

I harkened for the days of the simple two button computer that told me the basics – speed, distance, what time it is, and yes – I’ve gotten greedy since the advent of bike-specific altimeters – I want to know how high I’ve climbed.

A lot of you might remember the Cateye brand from ‘back in the day’, as early makers of lights, various cycling accessories, and of course cycling computers. Actually started in 1946, they’ve got a longer history than most in the cycling biz, and have continued to stay current with technology and ideas, usually at very affordable prices. Their website currently offers 14 different cycling computer models.

Enter the Cateye Adventure CycloComputer – it’s light (29grams for the body), small (55 x 13x 33mm), and best of all – really simple to set up and use.
So far I’ve logged 706km and 10,517m of elevation gain on this baby, and I quite like it.

It’s all about ease of use, and I can’t recall an easier install on any computer I’ve seen. The mounting strap just screws on by hand, and is long enough to fit a big variety of stem sizes for both road and mtb.

It’s got all the main features I want, without going overboard or becoming too cumbersome to use. Data is displayed effectively in 3 rows across the screen:
At the top is Speed: always shown on the screen in the upper right in the biggest numbers.
In the middle is Altitude data like current altitude, % grade (up or down), total altitude gained for the ride, total altitude gained on the computer, temperature.
The bottom row shows average speed for the ride, countdown distance to destination (this defaults from 100km to go, but is also manually adjustable), total kms ridden on the computer, time, and a stopwatch timer.

There is no heart rate data offered on this model, nor is the data downloadable, so it’s not for true data-junkies (although if you’re like me, you’re training log is a wall calendar with a few notes written in about each ride), but I suspect we’ll see these features appear in the near future.

The operation is pretty cool – taking the old two button design and making it even simpler, this Cateye basically pivots in the mount, so the whole unit becomes a button, and making use as easy as bumping the bottom of the screen to change functions.

Each screen scrolls through sequentially, so sometimes you need to make quite a few clicks to get to the screen you want.

The sensors look like sensors and amazingly for me, worked right from the get go. I zip-tied the sensor in place, spun the wheel and voila – data appeared on the screen… as if by magic! There’s a soft rubber backing that holds the sensor in place on the fork and keeps the paint safe, although I did add a couple of pieces of tape to the back if the fork blade to prevent the zip ties from contacting the fork.

The Cateye Adventure is perfect for any ride who wants instant data simply displayed in an easy to use package. The two bike feature makes it a snap to switch between bikes, and it’s at home on both road and mountain bikes, and I say a worthy purchase at US $170.00 for 2011.

DEFEET – Cooler Than You Think
DeFeet have long been known for making some of the best socks in the world for cycling – they’re durable, comfortable, and keep your feet cool when it’s hot, or warm when it’s cold. There’s likely no other brand as well known for cycling specific socks – and the story of the company’s start is one I love to tell because like a lot of the best brands around, DeFeet started not as a commercial venture, but was born out founder Shane Cooper’s desire to make a better product- in this case a better sock for cycling – so he saddled up to a sock-knitting machine and got to work – designing & knitting his own socks – ultimately creating the now famous and much copied Air•E•Ator®.

DeFeet is taking the same level of smart thinking that created the Air•E•Ator’s (our personal faves), and expanded into compression socks, the Un D Lite base layers, and thin wool for cooler temps.

While amazing socks provided the grounding to launch the brand, the company has kept on walking, by taking its knowledge of keeping feet cool, and working up to include a very well developed line of base layers, and accessory outer wear.

Team Highroad Columbia runs on DeFeet’s base layers, and Mick Rogers loves ‘em so much he agreed to talk their virtues on video (see it here https://www.defeet.com/d-films.php). You can rest assured he ain’t singin’ their praises for the money – DeFeet is still working towards total global domination where they can afford to buy all the exposure they want – but they’re not there yet. Mick genuinely loves the gear. And that’s the kind of cred no amount of money can buy.

The recurring theme of our meeting was how certain fabrics in base layers can really reduce body temperatures, which is so important to us cyclists. Shane and his marketing guy/ long time bud/ biz-partner (and ex-pro who rode with Greg Lemond on Team Z) Paul Willerton, showed me a cool demo with gloves made of a fabric called Tuff N Lite, which uses Kevlar threads. As you’d expect with Kevlar, this stuff is highly resistant to abrasion, making it very good for protecting cyclists. Paul offered to take a bread knife to my gloved hand as a demo – but I’ve known him long enough to know he was telling the truth.

But even more impressive was its ability to cool the skin on contact. I pulled on the glove, and instantly felt it cool all around my hand. An obvious application here is with base layers, and DeFeet has been testing some protoypes made with Tuff N Lite on the backs of Team Columbia-Highroad – at the Tour, and now at the sweltering days of the hottest Vuelta in memory.

But the list of cooling gear keeps getting longer, as DeFeet showed their new boxer cut briefs. They’re available with a chamois and without, and make total sense for anyone wanting to ride in something other than traditional padded shorts. I like ‘em for the commuter, or errand guy, and especially for the off-road guys who’ve typically had to layer up with too-hot padded briefs and heavy shorts. The non-padded briefs are available at DeFeet.com, and the padded version is expected to arrive for Fall 2010.

The problem when it comes to marketing cables is there’s just nothing sexy to sell. Yes – we all need ‘em, but without that sex-appeal, riders settle for ‘Brand X’ simply because they just don’t know the difference a good cable makes to actually improve shifting and braking.

The ‘sexy’ folks at W. L. Gore may be best known as inventors for Gore-Tex – that water-repellent but breathable fabric that pretty much launched a new category in outwear. They’re scientists at heart, and have a very good knowledge of how to make things slippery – as in water molecules sliding off a fabric instead of adhering and making it wet.

So it should be no surprise that they’ve applied this expertise to cables – by making some of the slipperiest in the business. This allows the cables to slide through housing and around bends with less friction, which translates into smoother and easier shifts and brake actuation.

The “Professional System” effectively seals the cable by sealing the ends of the cable housing, running the exposed cable lengths through a thin (white) housing, and sealing the two with rubber GRUB seals. It works.

But the amount of grit and grime the road and trail throws up can grind you to a halt, (or at least to replacing your cables after they’ve become so gunked up that shifting and braking is a gritty, scratchy annoyance) so Gore has come out with two versions of sealed cable system for brakes and shifters, that effectively prevents that grit from entering the cable housing.

The Sealed System has the actual cable running full length through a special (extra-slippery) tube inside the housing. This requires slightly larger diameter cable 5mm housing to allow the tubing to run through, which GORE says adds only 20 grams weight over the Pro System.

The Professional System was originally developed for SRAM’s pro sponsored teams, and uses the tubing to effectively seal the exposed length of cables between the housing sections. This allows for normal diameter housing for both shift and brake cables, and uses nosed ferrules and small rubber booties to seal the junctions where housing meets tubing.

The Pro System brake cables eschew the standard steel wrap coiled around the length of the tube, and replace it with Kevlar® cords wrapped around the wires to give them the radial strength (but reducing the weight against steel wrapped cables).

Both designs are simple but effective – and the demo we saw was pretty impressive.

They mounted two cable systems side by side in a box filled with sand – one a sealed system GORE RideOn, the other a traditional non-sealed setup, attached to a thumb shifter and derailleur, with the cables running into and through the sand, so that sand particles could work their way into the exposed ends of the cable housing.

The GORE Sealed System was noticeably easier to shift, and although the demo may not exactly what you’d encounter in the real world it did serve an impressive and distinct illustration of how grit in the cables can affect shifting performance.

And if that wasn’t enough, they blinded me with science – at least in the form of this chart that shows how much their testing indicating the friction reductions actually are.

I saw lots more stuff and will be reporting back on it later. So tech marches on, and advancements wait for no man… we’ll do our best to keep you informed.

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