When Shimano Creates a Vacuum, Others Will Fill The Void


by Mark V on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:04 AM

If you’re a consumer, you may not have noticed one of the bigger shakeups in North American component distribution. Mid-last year, Shimano America announced that they would end relations with all but a handful of continental distributors for aftermarket components while “encouraging” retail shops to buy direct (with a B2B system that is loved by exactly no one). Ostensibly this move would help dealers maintain profit margins by eliminating venders from dumping inventory on the market, but many shops are upset about the change since they would prefer to just order parts from their preferred distributor along with their non-Shimano inventory needs. Other shops point out that the online retailers from the UK sell parts to consumers in the US for about the same price that the shops pay wholesale; the distribution change does nothing to solve this. And besides derailleurs and whatnot, Shimano plans to exclusively sell pedals directly to shops. Aside from my own angst, having to deal with Shimano directly, I am curious to see how this pedal plan will play out in the long run.

In my mind, Shimano has been the industry’s 600-lb gorilla since the mid-1980s, wielding huge influence on bike design and distribution. But when Shimano stumbles, other players pounce. I theorize that SRAM’s move into the road market was triggered by a lag in Shimano’s deliveries for road product in the mid-00s. Up till that point, SRAM was strictly an mtb parts maker, but then you started to see SRAM 8 and 9sp cassettes/chains on many entry and mid-level road bikes. They also purchased Truvativ in 2005, given them presence in cranks and chainrings. At the same time, bike manufacturers had some delays delivering bikes because they couldn’t get the Shimano kits. Within a few years, SRAM debuted Force and Rival road gruppos.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much of those events have a causal relationship versus merely correlation, but what is certainly true is that North American distributors are stepping up house brand pedal systems to sell to shops who don’t want to kowtow to Shimano’s distribution schemes. Most of these designs, like QBP’s iSSi and MDW lines, seem to be manufactured by ever incorrigible Shimano knock-off, Wellgo. As such, I’m afraid that my gut-instinct is that these initial offerings will be inferior quality, but who knows what the future will hold? Or perhaps another manufacturer will step in with the resources necessary to build and market a pedal system to go toe-to-toe with the venerable SPD. Maybe old school players like Time and LOOK will end up grabbing back market share.


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Huggacast Shorts: Dan Rubin on Assignment with Lumias


by Byron on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM

On assignment in Austin, Dan Rubin shot our Mobile Social with Lumias in RAW and post processed with Lightroom and VSCO Cam. A few months before SXSW, he taught us about Instagram in London. As we learned, “In the film era you’d select your film type to match your creative style. Digital sensors make flat images and filters bring out the vibrancy the eye saw.”

See what Dan saw in this video and a gallery on G+.

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Yes, THAT wide: the FSA SL-K Brakeset


by Mark V on Mar 17, 2014 at 5:35 PM

FSA SL-K brakeset 03

Today’s aero wheels offer bolt-on speed with relatively tame handling traits, making them suitable for a wide variety of race conditions. While they’re not cheap, aero wheels are the single best performance upgrade for your bike and are a more cost-effective choice than an “aero road bike” frame. But for many racers, acquiring high-end race wheels will leave precious little equipment budget. So imagine if you dropped big money on the wheels only to find out that your brake calipers don’t open wide enough to fit them. Sure, the latest versions of SRAM Red and Dura Ace will fit thicky aero rims, but your credit card is still smoking form the wheel purchase. Full Speed Ahead has your back with the upgraded SL-K brakeset.

Certainly more beneficial than internally routed shifter cables, lightweight QR skewers, or an 11sp cluster, recent aero wheel designs have carbon rims with a section that is thickest towards the middle of the depth and a smooth transition from the tyre to the rim. Wheel designs pioneered by Hed and Zipp. These rims penetrate the air well straight on, but also perform well when the wind vectors in from some angle off zero degrees ahead. Such wheels are also known for having more docile behaviour in side gusts. These characteristics come from the shape of the rim/tyre having a smooth shape to the leeward surface, so that the air keeps a smooth, laminar flow over most of the surface before it breaks loose in turbulent swirls. Ironically, thick sections were the total opposite of aerodynamically-minded bicycle design from the 1980s to less than ten years ago. Back then, narrow was the goal, and “aero” rims were 19-20mm wide right next to the tyre (ie the brake track) and drew back to sharply tapered trailing edges. Today’s best designs are often close to 28mm wide at their thickest point in the middle of the rim depth; they are often 25mm or more at the brake track. This has created an odd situation for brake manufacturers. From entry-level to high-end, road calipers for the last couple decades were optimized for rims like the Mavic Open Pro (20mm wide). They just can’t open big enough for these new aero wheels. High-end brake designs introduced in the last couple years such as the SRAM Red Aero-Link caliper have been revised, but the ability to open wide hasn’t trickled down to the Force or 105 level yet.

Meanwhile, FSA has aggressively adapted to market needs and eagerly steps up to provide for consumers and OEM. The updated SL-K calipers spread to 33mm with unworn pads, enough to accommodate a 28mm rim. This spread is especially for the rear wheel position, where the narrow spoke bracing and torque from the rider cause the rim to flex side to side. The SL-K calipers weigh a respectable 314gr with mounting hardware (verified). The cable-pull ratio should be compatible with both newer Shimano levers as well as SRAM/Campagnolo, though depending on your preferences the SL-K might feel a little low on leverage with the Shimano. I rode the calipers with SRAM Red levers, and I found the braking performance to be better than 1st-gen Red calipers and close to the new Aero-Link. However, the new Aero-Link calipers are a cam-actuated single-pivot brake as opposed to the SL-K and original Red. This makes the SL-K much easier to center the pads, since you can just pull the caliper with one hand and retighten the fixing nut; whereas the Aero-Link is almost impossible to center without two wrenches. And at less than $200, the SL-K brakeset is much less expensive.

The SL-K’s all black finish should compliment most bikes, it comes stock with SwissStop BXP (all-weather blue compound for alloy rims), and has a ratcheting QR. My only gripe is that the barrel-adjuster feels a little weird and is awkward to spin though it turns smoothly.

One thing to keep in mind when setting up these brakes is whether you’ll be using aero wheels AND conventional alloy rims on the bike; this is an issue with other designs too. I would suggest that you initially set up the calipers with QR full open on the widest rim you plan to use, so that way you can use the throw of the QR to partially adjust for when you slip in the narrower rims. Oh, and don’t forget to run carbon-specific pads for your carbon-aero wheels.

FSA SL-K brakeset 04

FSA SL-K brakeset 02

FSA SL-K brakeset 01

FSA SL-K brakeset 05

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Orp: Integrated Cycling Light/Horn


by Mark V on Mar 17, 2014 at 3:53 PM

ORP Smart Horn/Light

Dean Kazura stopped by the bike shop to show me new product that he’s representing for this area. Orp is a USB-rechargeable, handlebar-mounted light with an integrated electronic horn. My first assumption was that this was going to be a super-cheesy product, but I was actually really impressed. The light is bright for its size and price point, the silicon band mount seems a lot more substantial, durable, and secure than Knog, and the horn actually does its job. Nice product for the commuter, but I can certainly think of a few times I’ve been out training in the sticks when a horn might be nice to alert drivers who aren’t used to sharing the roads with cyclists.

Unless I’m mistaken, msrp should be $65, which is quite reasonable. Check out the light at orpland.com.

I just wish it did the horn riff from Lowrider

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Scott Foil Off the Trainer and Out the Door


by Byron on Mar 17, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Trainer New

Broke the bike free from the trainer and don’t want to put it back

When I remove the good bike from the apparatus that binds it in the basement, I don’t want to put it back. After an oddly mild winter our Spring has been full of rain and discontent. I’ll pace, watch the clouds, radar patterns, and even go out for a bit on the good bike and then back to switch to the rain one, if needed. I covered how it falls on me and my mind in this post. Yesterday it was face-stinging rain, miserably cold, and poured down from high clouds.

The Roubaix took the edge off again, like it’s designed to do, but my mind drifted to riding the Scott Foil fast and in the sun. Twice before the rains came back, I was late for dinner riding that bike, taking the long way home.

Golden Foil

Golden Foil

See more photos of the Foil as they’re taken and uploaded. I’m writing a feature about it now for our Magazine.

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Read The Clearing for Free


by Byron on Mar 17, 2014 at 10:06 AM


Those big eyes watching cyclists ride by

In case you missed it last week, we dropped another issue of our Magazine and made it and past issues available to all devices. Bike Hugger Mag is now on iOS via iTunes and every device with a browser. Starting today, we flipped the free switch on Patrick Brady’s article The Clearing to entice subscriptions.

His story is about an animal encounter and fear. Fear that an owl was going to dismantle him as he rode his bike.

As I learned later, Patrick from Red Kite Prayer doesn’t suffer from oclophobia and didn’t write the article as a public confession of a rare, bird-related phobia. It was just this one big owl that he wrote, “was staring at me.”

To read The Clearing, just sign in. Then to read the rest of the issue with more animal encounters and SXSW recaps, please subscribe: annual subscriptions are $16; individual issues are $4.

Your money directly supports the authors, photographers, and editors who contribute to Bike Hugger Magazine and make it ad free.

Owl photo by Randy Stewart via Flickr.

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A Musette Full of Fun and Photo Ops


by Byron on Mar 16, 2014 at 10:33 AM

A musette full of fun

A Musette Full of Fun

When Chris and Jeremy from Rapha asked me what schwag they should bring for the MoSo and then suggested musette bags. I said, “sure, we’ll fill ‘em with fun.”

And we did.

Expecting 20 or so would show up in the cold and rainy skies, we were all thrilled when a hundred of us rode around Austin on Terns stopping for photo opps with Lumias.


The bossphone

Tern rides

Rode around on Terns looking for Tacos

The Mobile Social was just a week ago and SXSW has such a long afterglow. We’re planning the next one at SXSW V2V, in Seattle, and then Interbike.

group photo

Obligatory Group Photo

We hope you ride with us and read more about SXSW 14 in Issue 10 of our Magazine that dropped this week on iTunes and the Web.

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Magazine: Free Sample and a Tip Jar


by Byron on Mar 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM


Dan Rubin on assignment for us with a Tern and Lumia during SXSW

Ever since we launched Bike Hugger Magazine for iPhone/iPad, we’ve been hearing from people who wanted to get it on their devices too. And as of Issue 10, published yesterday, our magazine is available on iTunes and all devices as subscription-based web content: $4.00 per issue or $16.00 annually.

I can talk all day about how readers have to unlearn a decade of the “free” habit or why it’s ad free. But it’s like planting a tree. Best is 5 years ago, second best is today. And how every little bit of business in web content pays for the next bit of business. What I’m most excited about though is how good our mag content looks across devices. For the web design developer geeks, it’s RWD sure, and also wrapped in a subscribable container for us by Tugboat Yards. You can browse the issues and test a free sample to see what I mean.

Tugboat is a platform for publishers to get support directly from readers. It’s a big tip jar to help us pay our mechanics, editors, and photographers, or underwrite a whole issue if you’re feeling generous with deep pockets.

That was cold

It was 38 degrees during this shoot

So after 10 months of micropublishing a bike magazine, and to use a group ride analogy, we’re asking readers to go up front and take a brief pull so we can work even harder.

I’ll be thinking about that ask on the ride in the rain today.

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Issue 10: Available Everywhere


by Byron on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:18 PM

A lesser-known origin story of Bike Hugger comes from a series of animal encounters and we were at SXSW! Issue 10 is available now on iTunes and everywhere else. The stories from our contributors include:

Lots of work

Late nights and early mornings for the past weeek

With a photo gallery of the bikes we rode, new gear, and food we ate. That was a lot of work to rock Southby with bikes, launch a webview, and then drop Issue 10.

Now it’s time for a few long rides on a Scott Foil then back to the grindstone.

Scott Foil

Scott Foil just arrived to demo

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Our Magazine Webview


by Byron on Mar 13, 2014 at 12:32 PM

Logo MAg

Subscribe and Read

Ever since we launched Bike Hugger Magazine for iPhone/iPad, we’ve been hearing from people who wanted to get it on their other devices. Now you can! We are still offering many free articles, but Bike Hugger Magazine is now available on all devices as subscription-based content: $4.00 per issue or $16.00 annually.

You can the read the thinking in the about page. The success of the past nine months told us to expand our offering and keep growing. Subscription revenues directly support the writing, editing, and production of the Magazine. It’s ad free and published monthly.

I hope you’ll be part of this small business! You can help by subscribing, and in other ways too. Our new digital strategy includes a page at Tugboat Yards, a platform where publishers can rally support from their audience. Whether or not you choose to subscribe, you can use Tugboat to tip us, help pay our mechanics, and editors, and photographers, or underwrite a whole issue if you’re feeling generous.

Thanks in advance for buying, subscribing, and supporting what we do at Hugga. We work very hard at it and we’re editing Issue 10 right now. That drops next on iPads and everywhere else.

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