What's Cool In Road Cycling

Tech Tidbits: New Gear at Sea Otter ’17

Hands on with FSA’s WE Group, Velo’s new Angels, Topeak’s Ninjas and Swing-Up stand, Vittoria’s Terreno Dry Gravel tire, Hiplok’s Z Lok and AirLok, Elite’s Fly bottle and Vico Cage.

One of the buzz creators at this year’s Sea Otter Classic was the announcement that FSA would not only be on hand with, but would also have test rides of their new hybrid wireless We Group.

Unfortunately, I had already filled my schedule and couldn’t get on the road with the group, but I did get to play a bit with the in-booth demo and finally get hands on…

The levers will come in a large and small size and the ergonomics make for comfortable hand placement.

The hood shape is probably closest to SRAM and has a fairly smooth transition from the bars, with a frilly grippy rubber upper that has a pattern that is, eh, “ribbed for your pleasure”.

The levers have a pronounced outward kick…

Sorry, I was too stupid to shoot the levers directly from the front, but this pic does a reasonable job of showing the kick-out.

The reach is adjustable in addition to the two sizes of hoods (large and small) and the outward kick that still leaves the lever parallel to the bars on the lower (outward) section. Reaching the levers from the drops is and intuitive and, at least for me, “feels” right…

The shifting buttons are located on the lever sides, similar to Shimano.

Shifting is a bit different as this is a rocker switch.

The shape differences on the surface of the switch make finding what you’re hunting for very easy. You shouldn’t find the wrong one here.

The one thing I would like is for these switches to be just a bit higher up the lever to offer a little better reach, but this wasn’t a big deal. I could find and hit the switches easily with a very slight reach. As I think about it, moving them further up may make them a bit harder to hit from the drops though and I would guess FSA had more than a few people playing with this. The reach also may be a bit easier with the “small” lever size in the case the lever is both shorter and slightly less volume.

There is a simple coin cell battery in each lever and they transmit an ANT Wireless signal.

The front mech is your control panel for the group with indicator LED’s that let you know the system’s status / battery warning (though the batteries are said to last a very long time). As for function, the front mech is quick solid and precise… It’s a rival to Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM’s Etap in function. In fact, it might be a touch quicker.

And it’s really quiet… In fact the conversation in the booth was that it might be “too quiet” as the electronic “bzzzzeeep” that marks the shifting of the other electronic group sets has become a bit of a “feature”, kinda like the turbo blow off sounds that the cars make in the Fast-Furious movies let you know the motor is “upgraded”.

The Rear Mech is wired to the front via the battery, but these pieces are not wired to the shifters (thus the “hybrid-wireless” call out).

It’s a clean, almost menacing looking unit that houses its mechanical operation in a package that, relative to other derailleurs seems a little tighter than its front mech counterpart.

Shifting out back is also precise but FSA are still refining the shifting quickness so that multiple rapid shifts occur with no lag or system freeze. I had to make a real effort to shift as fast as possible for several cogs to make it happen though and I would guess this is something that will be ironed out as the shifting is also programmable and their final offering is getting the finishing touches.

FSA also had their new Power Box cranks on hand in carbon form.

This is a partnership with Power2Max and a very economical set up. The carbon version will set you back $1189 but there is also an Alu version that will run just $649.  They’ll come in an assortment of gearing options and lengths and are a pretty darn economical power solution regardless of the group you’re running.

FSA are planning on the first WE groups being released to the media in June/July-ish time frame so we’ll keep you informed on the project that should be happening shortly afterward.

You can see more at FSA.COM

Elite are the biggest name in Pro Tour cycling bottles and cages and their new Fly Team bottle is a benchmark for weight in the peloton.

The 550 ml container is made with a new molding process that makes for a very thin construction that takes mass out of the sides.

The bottles are easy to squeeze but seem to stay snug in cages and they’re BOA free and odorless.

The caps are also a new design that shed a few grams but the biggest change is in increased flow rate with less effort, possibly aided by the soft sided bottle being easy to squeeze.

The new bottles are joined by a new ultralight bottle cage, the Vico.

This injection molded, short-fiber carbon cage holds bottles securely and feels stiff and solid in the hand. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the injection process is that the Vico are relatively economical especially given their weight. These will cost you $39.99.

You can find more at: ELITE-IT.com

HipLok were on hand with a couple of new products and the one getting the most attention was their new secure bike storage solution the AIRLOK.

This is a hardened steel frame that bolts directly to a wall…

The impact resistant casing slides over the frame work and a scratch resistant rubber frame holder fastens the casing in place.

A steel 30mm locking bolt with a “non-pick” key cylinder holds the bike in place.

The whole thing feels beefy and secure and the fit and finish on the samples was very good. The heft and complexity of the pin and lock make me feel like the most likely scenario for theft will be to break the wall behind the unit…

Hiplok also had their new Z Lok on hand.

This is basically a steel core zip-tie for your bike kit.

While this is minimalist, the fact that you can pull this down fairly snug against whatever you’re locking makes getting a cutting tool (suitably strong enough to break the steel) into the space left after fastening a bit tougher.

The key is a universal fit…

Hiplok understand the limitations of something this small and light. It’s not meant to replace a 12 pound chain or multi-layer cable system. This is a simple design meant to make things just that bit more difficult than the typical snatch and grab thief will want to deal with.

The AIRLOK should be available shortly and sells for $195. The Z LOK (16”) is available now (I just went and bought one in fact) and they cost $20 and come in Red, Black and Yellow.

More here at: HIPLOK.COM

Velo’s Angel Saddles have been refined and now come in an assortment of padding densities and sizes.

There’s a reasonable chance that Velo make the saddle you’re using now, as they’re the largest producer of saddles in the world (they make 15 million saddles a year). With that, they know a few things about seat tech and their newest development is a padding dubbed “AirForm”.

The Angel saddles come in multiple widths and levels of padding… There are also different base and rail materials to offer different weight specs, from Carbon rails to Titanium and Alloy to carbon or composite shells.

The new foam is tuned to give a progressive feel meaning it’s softer for initial touch and then gets more firm as it’s compressed. AirForm also holds / traps less heat than traditional padding as the new padding is less dense in structure (while still providing better cushioning than older forms of padding).

The cut shape on the Angel saddles is also interesting in that it actually contacts less of your sensitive area than you might think. The bottom-up view shows you that the cut section toward the back of the saddle just before the “Y” shaped ending both drops away from your soft tissues and also allows some added saddle flex at the sit bone areas.

The angel saddles are shipping now with retail prices ranging from $120 to $290.

You can find more at: VELOSADDLES.COM

Vittoria introduced new Gravel Tires and they’re slick (er, knobby kinda slick but not really slicks…). There are three different treads (and three different rubber types) designed for Wet, Mixed and Dry surfaces, but moisture doesn’t really define them. The “Wet” features big separation between large knobs to dig into the dirt, The “Mix” puts less space between large center section knobs that will be good on a combination of surfaces and the Dry will be best suited to hard pack and fast rolling…

The “Dry” is a tire that really stands out for me… It features a low knob center section and larger outside knobs, but there’s more detail here the closer you look.

You can see above that the center section is actually missing knobs to offer some staggered center section traction.

Take a look from the side and you’ll also note that the center knobs are slanted. Thicker on one side than the other to allow for lower rolling resistance going forward but the ability to dig in under braking. The larger side knobs are softer to aid in cornering. But you‘ll also note the fairly smooth transition as you go from the center of the tread up onto the side walls.

This easy transition is all about speed and the spacing between the side wall knobs is also such that stability should be maintained… Very cool designs on all three Terreno Types.

Pricing is reasonable at $59 for Tubeless ready clincher. Tubular versions are $99.

They’re available now.  You can find more at: VITTORIA.COM

Topeak have some clever new kit
in the updated Ninja tool, Omni case and Swing up storage range.  The Ninja series are everything from hidden and compact tools to inflation to combo on-bike storage.

The Pouch and Co2 range offers both bottle cage included and bottle bolt mounted (that attach between existing cages and the frame).

The cages are solid units that feature levers on the side and twist-out pouches or exposed inflation equipment for easier access.

My personal pref would be the simple bolt-on pouch mounted on the down tube as it would keep the muck and dirt off your inflation/tools or a spare tube. The mount location is also close to the bottom bracket which is the fulcrum of the bike where weight has the least effect…

On the storage side, Topeak showed off the updated Swing-up bike holder with a new feature that earns the name “DX”…

The newer Swing-Up DX and EX versions allow the bike to swing right or left all the way so your bike can get nearly flat against the wall.

The DX version will actually allow you to lock the swing position in 15 degree increments.

SRP for the DX is $79 and the more economical Swing-Up EX model is just $39 and still has the ability to maneuver the bike while mounted.

Topeak also brought their latest Omni Ridecase.

This is bright thinking versus tons of phone mounts for your bike that seem to ignore that virtually anyone that is active already has a phone case and most of the active-lifestyle cases that offer actual protection (or added battery life) are a pain in the ass to remove from your phone…

The Omni Ridecase will take pretty much any phone with a 4-ish to 5-ish inch screen. And these will attach to your arm, stem or bars with a few optional mounting formats. SRP ranges from $39-49.95 depending on mount type.

Smart kit from Topeak…

You can find all of these at: TOPEAK.COM

More to follow..

Have Fun,

Charles Manantan
[email protected]

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