Stopped by DKCB and got a NAHBS preview. This 333 Fab whip is one of the show bikes and there’s quite a lot going on with it. I could write a book about all the details. If you’re in the Seattle area, see it at the shop or later at the show. That mouthful of acronyms?
So much to catch up on after a long weekend of fat biking in the Methow Valley, and we’ll start with this PR from Pivot and the edit. Rode Pivot a few years ago during a media event and here in Seattle, that’s why I share their content still – exceptionally well engineered. Also not a brand everyone else has on the trail.
Set your racing on fire. With input from the Pivot Factory racing team, the new Phoenix DH Carbon is 2/3 of a lb lighter, and offers more go-fast features than any other gravity offering on the market. In this video, rider Bernard Kerr, Eliot Jackson and Emilie Siegenthaler offer their input and feedback on what makes the new Phoenix their choice for the 2016 World Cup and Crankworx season.
Occasionally I happen upon an item that completely takes me by surprise. At first glance the PowerLight Mini from BioLite looks like an odd tail light masquerading as almost-vintage flip phone. BioLite is a company that is perhaps better known for making clever devices such as a camp stove that smokelessly burns wood to generate heat for cooking while simultaneously providing electricity to charge a phone, GoPro, or other electronic device. I thought so they’re making a bicycle tail light, ho hum. It turns out that the PowerLight Mini is so much more than just that.
The 80gr PowerLight Mini is 80x51x15mm. You can choose to run the light as either red or white LED, with about 4/5ths of the face lighting up. Theoretically you could use the PowerLight Mini as a headlight on a bike, as the included mounting bracket allows the light to be mounted either parallel to a tubular structure (as a tail light on a seatpost) or perpendicular (as you would on a handlebar), but the PowerLight Mini’s light is not really designed to project a concentrated beam a great distance away. Instead the face’s array lights up as a glowing source of evenly diffused light. Of course, that works just fine for a tail light when set to red LED, but that white light works great for a variety of situations off the bike. Since it produces a broad light pattern with no hotspots, it works nicely as miniature work light or camp lantern. The wire clip that at first seemed like an odd manner of attaching the PowerLight Mini to the mounting bracket, turns out to double as a flip stand, so you can set the PowerLIght Mini down. You can also use the clip to affix the light to your clothing, like on your chest if you needed to do detailed work with your hands. You can even use the light in red mode if you want to maintain your night vision. If you’ve ever tried to change a flat in the darkness of winter, you can well imagine how useful this light is. Usually when you try to use the typical bike light for the same task, you blind yourself looking at the hotspot from the beam and then can’t see anything unless you shine that hotspot directly on the target. As a lantern on hi setting, it will give 5hours of 135lumen light; in strobe it should give up to 52hours.
I was so delighted over those features above that I almost forgot that the significance of the “power” in the PowerLight Mini moniker. The BioLite product also functions as a 1350mAh power source for personal electronic devices. It has a mini-USB port for power in, and USB port for output.
The $45 PowerLite Mini is new for Spring 2016. You can pre-order now; shipments begin February 16th.
Once you have the rear light mounted and sync’d to your computer, you simply start riding normally and whenever a car approaches you from behind (up to 500 feet away) the right side of your bike computer screen will turn red, beep, and show an approaching dot animated on your screen.
The scenery was monochromatic with a splash of color. When I first wrote about fatbikes in the snow, most of the narrative was written from rides in this valley. I didn’t know then if a niche of a niche would get traction in the mainstream. Happy to report it has and if you haven’t tried fatbiking yet, you totally should. It’s super fun.
Don from Cycle and Sport or Merle from Cycle Werks will set you up. Rentals are about $30.00 for a 1/2 day and Pearrygin Lake State Park is designated for fatbikes. We stayed with friends, but there are plenty of rooms to rent.
Rawland announced their new Drop-Bar MTBs at Velocult in Portland. Our friends from PLP were there and uploaded this short video. Also see the report from Bicycle Times about The Ravn and Ulv. In a market that’s not very well defined, you can call these bikes whatever, and just be happy for more hand positions and tire choices. The Trek 920 is similar with road-touring geo and 29r wheels, as well as the Specialized AWOL, and what Raleigh did with the Roker – first ride here and reviewed in our mag.
Ravn 26-inch wheels with Panaracer Driver Pro tires and will fit a 650b x 42 tire with fenders. Photo: Bicycle Times
Ulv with clearance for a 27plus tire or a 29-inch mountain bike tire. It also has additional braze-ons for bikepacking gear. Photo: Bicycle Times
As I’ve said, if roadies are gonna ride off road without suspension, it’ll take more than high volume tires to make for a comfortable all-day ride. Next up, bring back the Rock Shock Ruby, seriously. What I’m spending my miles on now is the Trek Boone that smooths out gravel with their IsoSpeed decoupler. I wrote about a ride on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail last weekend.
So why would you want a MTB on fire roads instead of a touring bike? According to Rawland’s Jeremy Spencer:
The key to both models is the low trail geometry. By lowering the trail the bike becomes much more stable with a load on the front end and without super-wide handlebars to maintain control.
And Mark V’s take:
The Ravn and ULV are interesting designs as a sort of fusion between the low-trail/front-loading rando philosophy and the reemerging interest in dropbars offroad.
Since the frameshop at which I work moved from downtown to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, my commute is largely confined to the bike paths. Instead of sprinting for yellow traffic signals and drag-racing automobiles off the line, I face the surprisingly difficult task of negotiating my way through pedestrians, strollers, slower cyclists, and the occasional Elliptigo, all while trying to maintain the facade of being a responsible and considerate member of society. What is needed is a way to politely and effectively communicate my presence and intentions at a distance, and few things do that as well as a bell. Not all bells are the same however. And not to be a snob, but each of my bikes represents serious money and planning. I am not about to zip tie a cheap apology for a ringer on my handlebar. On the other hand, I am not actually immune to the costs of bicycle products, even if I work in the industry. I will pay good money for something, but it must be convincingly better than the norm.
I say this because when the topic of Spurcycle’s bell comes up, half of the people indignantly complain about the $50 price for a bell. And that’s a legitimate objection…if to you a bell is but a bell. But make no mistake. This bell is objectively better than others when the criteria calls for small, loud, and physically unobtrusive. Spurcycle achieves this by carefully crafting each component of the bell with the goal of producing a commanding sound from a tiny metal device. The bell has a loud, bright tone with an amazingly long sustain, and the firm action of the bell’s striker allows for rapid ringing if you need to communicate greater urgency. There are other bells on the market for less money, but none are quite as competent the Spurcycle, or at least not without being at least three times larger. And as much as I love the nostalgic looks and joyous sound of a Crane Riten bell, I’m never going to bolt such a big brass bulk onto a 15-lb carbon road bike.
At just 49gr, the Spurcycle is suitably light, but even better in my eyes is how little space it takes up on the handlebar. The Spurcycle is secured by means of a stainless steel band, two sizes of which are provided for diameters up to 26mm and up to 36mm. This allows you to mount the Spurcycle in a variety of positions such as next to the brake lever on a mountainbike (22.2mm) or beside the stem of a road bike…even if you had one of those 35mm Deda Elementi bars. I suppose you could mount it over the headset spacers below the stem, assuming you hadn’t slammed the stem. Personally, I like mine mounted on the bar, next to the stem….the dome of the bell facing forward like the nose of a sonic missile. Honestly, it looks rather cool like that; the Spurcycle will do no injustice to the aesthetics of a bicycle.
A bicycle bell is one of the simplest devices made since the Industrial Revolution, yet there is nothing else on the horizon likely to replace it. In my opinion, paying $450 for a premium bicycle pump is ridiculous when you can buy an air compressor for a third of that price and have the actual capability of mounting tubeless tyres, or you could get a $60 cordless inflator like the modern professional team mechanics use. But there is no high-tech replacement for a bell, no app for your iPhone to warn people 10 to 50M away that you and they will soon share the same space/time coordinates. The Spurcycle puts the greatest performance in the smallest of forms. No novelty 3D printing, just thoughtful design and careful craftsmanship of honest metal, entirely made in the US of A.
Yesterday in New York, Sony launched the new a6300 camera and a trio of lenses in the company’s brand new G Master lens line. These lenses are designed, according to Sony, to provide the highest possible resolution from today’s sensors and are designed to keep pace with technological advances in the years to come. The company uses their own glass production facilities to craft these lenses, and include super-high quality topics, they report.
The company gave journalists the opportunity to sample the new lenses. We have posted a gallery of these images on the Flickr site of Sony Mirrorless Pro, who I was also writing for. The new 85mm f/1.4 GM and the 24-70mm f/2.8 GM were made available, and will ship in March.
The closest comparison for the 85mm f/1.4 is the current Zeiss Batis lens, which has, as far as we’ve seen today, a very similar look.
We will have these lenses in for review in a few weeks, and will be doing more extensive testing, but in initial testing these lenses performed excellently, living up to Sony’s claims of smooth “bokeh” and impressive sharpness. Of course, we’ll take photos of bikes with those lenses. When the a6300 and the lenses start shipping, you can order them online from Amazon, like the rest of Sony’s popular Alpha Series.