I first spotted Muc-Off’s C3 Ceramic Bike Lube at their Interbike booth, where the staff demonstrated that the lube fluoresces under a black light. The idea is that you could use a black light to check to see if you’ve adequately applied the lube to all the links, which would be a cool idea if I was still in my freshman dorm room discovering Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time but slightly less useful in the typical bike shop. Neon-glow party tricks aside, this lube works exceptionally well, in both cyclocross and commuting. The “ceramic” C3 lube adds boron nitride to the mix. When it comes to chain lube, there are only three that I like: Chain-L, ProGold Prolink, and this Muc-Off C3. It is marketed as a wet lube, and I think of it as a good choice for the Pacific Northwest, particularly during the wet season. Of the three lubes that I like, it is perhaps the most troublesome to clean off of your hands and other unintentional surfaces, but it is more tenacious than ProLink and does not require as much prep prior to application as Chain-L does. Quiet-running, easy to apply, lasting, reasonable clean-up, smells nice…no reason to gild the lily, if you’re looking for a dependable lube give it a try.
Entries by Mark V
Last year, Sidi introduced the Wire as their flagship road shoe, replacing the Ergo3. Sighted in prototype form on the feet of riders such as Peter Sagan, the Wire is probably the most dramatic revision to the Sidi top-end in a decade, replacing the three fasteners of the Ergo series with just two twist ratchet/tension cord units that Sidi calls Tecno 3 system. The shoe is also offered with a choice of two carbon soles. The Vent sole is an all-new carbon design with vents underneath at the toe and mid-foot while the SP has a Speedplay-specific mount without vents. Since I ride Speedplay Zero pedals, I considered getting the SP, but in the end I chose the Vent because it was available in my size in the Cannondale Team colours.
Sidi always brings solid construction to their product, even if it seems to be laden with a lot of gimmicky devices. I have a 13 yr old pair of Sidi Energy shoes, then the flagship model from the same company. The Energy has a telescoping rod in the arch of the shoe that was designed to allow the rider to “fine tune the stiffness of the sole.” That shoe has held up quite well over time, but that rod in the shoe arch has never produced any noticeable effect. On the other hand, the Wire Vent’s array of features are all genuinely contributing something to the rider.
While “enduro” is the hot trend in mountain bikes and accessories, “aero-road” is the new black for the pavement posse. In the pursuit of performance, aerodynamics is the last area ripe for exploitation. Specialized has been a leader in using aerodynamics as a major design philosophy for all aspects of road riding, and one of their sponsored teams rosters the best road sprinter of the day. You don’t need to be Nostradamus to foretell that Specialized was going to market an aero-road helmet and that it was going to be a strong product. They did, it is, and the helmet is called the Evade. Specialized claims that the helmet will save 46secs over 40km, or perhaps even more enticing to the sprinter set, 2.6m over a 200m sprint.
There is a good rule of thumb when talking about contributions to aerodynamic drag. In terms of equipment, wheels are most important, then the fork, then the frame. But you as a rider contribute more drag than all those other factors combined….and frankly your head is just awful, aerodynamically speaking. The only way to make it worse is to wear a giant wiffle ball atop your kopp. But a full time trial helmet (besides being illegal for mass start races) is just too bulky and has a narrow range of positioning and conditions in which it can provide a practical improvement. Enter the aero-road helmet. The general concept is simple: take the full TT helmet, shorten it to regulations, round the shape so the helmet aerodynamically works for varying head positions, and make it just ventilated enough that it can be comfortable in a long road race. Besides Specialized, other manufacturers to debut aero-road helmets include Bell, Giro, and Kask; all follow this basic formula.
Cyrano handlebar shapes: Bull, Chameleon, and Snake (l-r)
Premium Italian saddle maker Fizik (pronounced “physique”) introduces a line of Cyrano drop handlebars and stems for 2014. The Cyrano bars (in several price levels of alloy and carbon) follow the company’s “Spine Concept” first applied to their saddles. The concept is based of the theory that the flexibility of your spine determines your optimum saddle shape. If your back is rather flexible, you would ride the Arione saddle; Fizik nicknames you a “snake”. If you’re not flexible, you’re a “bull”, and you take the Aliante saddle. In between the two would be a “chameleon” on the Antares saddle. Fizik extends this idea to their new handlebars.
I’ll be honest; I’m not sure I buy into this Spine Concept. I’m even less sure that the concept is valid when applied to a rider’s combined preferences for handlebar and saddle. What if I prefer a “snake” saddle and a “bull” handlebar? Am I not allowed to do that? An Arione saddle was designed long before Fizik started bandying about this fancy concept. Riders like Gilberto Simoni on Cannondale-Saeco and other Italian stage racers were consulted, and what Fizik ended up with was a saddle as long as the UCI would allow, with a extended tail that riders sit back on to get fuller extension of the legs while climbing long grades. The Arione’s long, flat profile allows riders to use the whole length of the saddle. I wouldn’t consider myself to be all that flexible, yet I love the Arione. It’s like my taint found its soulmate. But should my taint to choose my handlebar?
The new Radial backpacks from Osprey are designed to compliment the bike commuter, but the Radial packs have versatility that extends beyond cycling. I’ve had the Radial 34 ($160-170) for several months now, and I keep on finding new occasions to use it.
Living in the Pacific NW, whenever I come across a new “technical” pack I generally first consider whether or not it is “waterproof”. It turns out that nominal waterproof-ness isn’t the end-all-be-all for bags. Sure, my faithful Reload messenger pack has a waterproof liner, but a commuter bag like the Radial can keep sufficiently dry with just a lightweight rain cover. A commuter generally isn’t repeatedly reaching into the bag like a messenger would, so he doesn’t need waterproof and ease of access both at the same time. Those heavy-duty liners in messenger bags really add weight, while the Radial 34’s rain cover is a negligible mass. Relying on the cover to keep water out allows the Radial to have ton of zippers giving access to various interior compartments. There are three large compartments; the one closest to your back has a laptop sleeve. A smaller one at the top of the bag is perfect for wallet and smartphone plus has a key leash. There is an additional pair of hip pockets, but I don’t use those so much because I can’t reach them while I’m wearing the bag and because the small top compartment lies right next to the main zippers. At the bottom of the bag is a hidden storage pouch for the rain cover.
Osprey uses a lightweight but rigid internal frame plus a suspension strap system and mesh to put a little bit of breathing room between the pack and the skin of your back. The supple and well-padded shoulder straps have a comfortable, ergonomic shape. I find that I almost never use waist straps when I wear a backpack, but the Radial 34 has a convenient one if you prefer. What’s nice is that the waist strap isn’t too annoying if you don’t use it. I am really happy with the chest strap however, as it can easily be adjusted for height on the shoulder straps. The “LidLock” helmet clip is remarkably convenient for quickly securing your helmet to the bag. Sure you could just use its chin strap to attach your helmet to any ol’ bag, but then the helmet would be awkwardly swinging around and banging into things. I don’t know about you, but I like nice helmets and I like to keep them that way. Osprey’s LidLock is quick to engage or detach, and your helmet stays put.
The Radial 34 comes in S/M (32 litre) or a M/L (34 litre) sizes; I have the larger version. In the end, this bag did not replace my heavy-duty messenger pack. That messenger pack has an enormous capacity, full waterproof liner, and a side lock holster. For the way I am on-and-off my bike, in and out of buildings, my use patterns still closely resemble those of a messenger. But I have really come to appreciate my Osprey Radial. It is a very convenient size, and compare to my messenger pack it just feels like there’s nothing on my back. Day trips with friends or shopping by automobile, this is my bag of choice. I have taken the bag to music festivals. Standing on tip-toes to see the music stage for three days straight would have been murder on my back with any other bag, but the Radial 34 suspension system is comfortable even after hours of wearing. Currently, I’m using this Osprey pack as my race-day bag. The various compartments keep everything organized and me stress free for cyclocross races. I have a compartment for my shoes, one for my race clothes, one for my post-race clothes, little pockets for race numbers and safety pins, wallet/smartphone, etc. Along with the rain cover in its hidden bottom pocket, I keep a heavy shopping bag in case I end up with mud and muck encrusted kit post-race.
Today SRAM Corp issued a recall on specific Hydro-R hydraulic road brakes, both rim and disc brake versions. These brake systems are from both the Red22 and S-700 (10sp) models. This is a proactive measure by SRAM, as there have been no reports of incidents from the field. The exact nature of the problem has not been described, only that it is a “performance and safety concern”. Since both disc and rim brake versions of Hydro-R are affected in only specific production batches, one could reasonably speculate that it is an issue with lever itself, most likely a process error rather than design. Here at Bike Hugger, we currently have 3 sets of Hydro-R in our stable, one each of the Red22 plus a S-700 disc brake. None of these have serial numbers affected by the recall.
According to the press release, SRAM actually produced a little more than 3,500 units in that production batch, but most were reclaimed internally, pulled from the OEM supplies to assemblers in Asia and aftermarket distributors . After that, perhaps as many as 500 units worldwide may have found their way to dealers or consumers. If you own a Hydro-R brake system, you can check the serial number which is laser-etched into the caliper; the number is on the bottom of the disc brake caliper. The serial number is also on the retail packaging. You can read the full text of the recall after the jump.
Another Starcrossed CX is over. This year yet again Seattle failed to live up to its reputation as Rain City as the weather served up another velodrome dustbowl, but Starcrossed is just about the most fun race on the calendar. First of all, there’s a beer garden and a real party atmosphere alongside the taped off race course. Secondly, the races start later in the day and then run well into the evening, if you’re not really a morning person. Duke it out in the lower divisions and then stay to watch top-ranked US professionals (and the occasional Euro star) slug it out. Thirdly they have a beer garden.
Starcrossed is the biggest cyclocross race for Washington state’s season, which I guess is a little odd since it comes so early, just the second official event in the area. On the other hand, it’s a great way to convince your family or friends that there is merit to your spending weekends riding on and running with a bike through filth. Drag them to Starcrossed for some of the best spectator values in cycling, and they might be game to hang out with you at those morning races later in the season when the weather is invariably foul. And if you haven’t done a ‘cross race yet, checking out Starcrossed is likely to start those gears turning in your head and have you googling “cx bikes” on Monday morning while you pretend to work.
I race Category 4 Open, which could be interpreted to mean that I am too slow or train too little to advance to faster categories while simultaneously too stubborn to join the masters age divisions. Cyclocross events roll off several categories at the same start time, separated into different waves at intervals of a minute or two. Within short order after the start the entire course is a long line of riders with gritty faces, and it’s a little confusing to the spectators who cannot differentiate the separate categories by their race number (hell, it’s confusing to me!). All I know is that there is always someone a little ahead of me that I want to pass. And since this year I drew the absolute last start position on the grid, in the last wave of riders in the 3PM start time…..everyone was ahead of me. With nearly 300 riders between me and the finish line, I knew I would need to be aggressive from early on to achieve a respectable placing. My woeful endurance at high output makes me loathe to reach too deep in my pocket for the first lap, but I didn’t really have a choice. At the whistle, I threw down to pass 20-30 riders before the first turn.
TRP’s hybrid cable/hydraulic disc brake caliper
SRAM’s 10sp S-700 Hydro-R lever. Compatible with all SRAM 10sp drivetrain components
Imagine that you are one of those people for whom the concept of disc brakes for road or cyclocross bikes was just so brilliantly and immediately correct that you had to go jump on the bandwagon even before it’s established some momentum. You’ve had a bike with cable-actuated brakes for a while, but the braking performance has never quite lived up to the standards you’ve experienced with mtb hydraulic systems. Now SRAM and Shimano are introducing hydraulic dropbar systems with integrated 11sp shifting. Hurray for hydraulics…..pity that you can’t put that 11sp cassette on your existing wheels. Here you were hoping to go to hydraulic with minimal prerequisite changes to other components; now not only do you need to replace the whole component group but also your wheels.
In my mind I see a Chris King cx-disc wheelset built with the ISO Disc hub (non-11sp), collecting dust in the corner because it can’t be used with the 11sp drivetrains. That would be a crime. But fear not, I have 3 options for hydraulic disc brakes for your road or cyclocross bike that allow you retain your 10sp drivetrain, or at least let you keep your wheels.
2009 Whisper on left, 2013 Whisper Deluxe ($240, CPSC-approved) on right
I could be wrong about this, but until the early 2000s and the UCI helmet regulations I don’t remember any Euro-exotic helmets available here in the states. Well, maybe the Briko Twinner. I don’t remember any helmet brand so suddenly coveted as Catlike when they were introduced. I suppose part of the reason was that Catlike’s distribution channel into the US market was rather slipshod at best, but then again the company was still rather new. Young companies don’t have the muscle to make a strong entry into a new foreign market. Another issue was that Catlike helmets were built to the EN1078 safety standard, which is somewhat less stringent than the mandatory CPSC standard for helmets in the US. Technically, Catlike helmets would only be legal in US races if the event was part of the UCI calendar.
I remember that my bike shop carried the helmet that first made Catlike a name, the Kompact. We got…like, 3 units. I wasn’t the buyer at the time, so it wasn’t my fault that all three were of the gaudiest colour scheme imaginable and none in large enough size to fit me. We sold two and the third had a broken buckle, and then the importer had no more product. Actually, I expected that the name Catlike would vanish.
Then a funny thing happened within a few years. The Kompact became fashionable among an unexpected demographic: Seattle’s messengers. I’m talking working messengers, not hipsters. To this day, I have no idea why. Maybe in a city with mandatory helmet laws, it was that the Kompact just didn’t look like a Bell or Giro. It had fewer but bigger vents that were rounder, more organic-looking. The all-white version was particularly desirable, somewhat anticipating the white colour craze that still continues to an extent today. Of course, maybe the mere fact that you just couldn’t buy one at your LBS was what made it cool. But Catlike’s brand didn’t really ascend until the Kompact’s replacement was introduced in the pro ranks by the Cervelo Test Team and Euskatel. If the Kompact seemed a little unusual, the Whisper’s style was brilliantly striking.
The Whisper was just peppered full of 39 round holes, and beneath the outer hardshell they led to generous channels around the rider’s head. The helmet’s exterior bore more than a passing resemblance to some sort of wasp nest. The Whisper was an expensive helmet, costing $250-300 from online retailers in the UK and Europe, but still US consumers shelled out for them, such was the demand. Catlike would be foolish to ignore such a market. However, if they were going to make a serious go at the US market, they’d have to do 2 things. First, they’d have to set up a stable importer. And second, they’d have to upgrade their helmets to meet CPSC standards. The CPSC-rated Whisper Plus was introduced a few years ago, but it was just within the past year that Catlike really took the plunge, establishing their own import center in the US, headed by the daughter of the company founder. Now a 15 year old company, Catlike finally has the confidence and wherewithal to make a serious challenge to the US helmet market.
New York State’s Serotta Bicycles is closing after 40 years; Serotta is currently owned by the same company that owns Mad Fiber and Blue. The sale last year had been meant to attract investment and pooling of resources, but in the end Serotta Bicycles was unable to meet payroll. The company was steadfast in their commitment to domestic production to the last.
Serotta bikes are inextricably linked with the rise of American cycling in international competition in the 1980s through supplying team bikes (usually bearing some other name) to American athletes in the national programs. Jim Ochowicz led legendary team 7-11, America’s pro cycling expeditionary force, into Europe aboard re-badged Serottas. Serotta was the framebuilder for Coors Light team, who had a stranglehold on the domestic US cycling scene during the early to mid-1990s. Names like Grewel, Phinney, Keifel, Moninger, and Heiden all made it onto winner’s lists atop Serotta frames.
Though in recent years Serotta has made their flagship frames in titanium and carbon fibre/titanium hybrid, in my mind the most interesting Serottas were the lugged steel frames using shaped and ovalized tubing, custom produced for Serotta by Columbus and True Temper. Back in the late 1980s, lugged steel bikes were still being developed as cutting edge competition equipment. Special lugs similar to Columbus’ MAX and Merckx MXL lugsets were cast to fit the exotic tubing, and these “CSi” frames are still some of the most unique lugged bikes ever made.
The Serotta company will only remain open for a few more weeks to fulfill existing orders. Founder Ben Serotta, who had not recently owned the brand or held stock in the company, has said that he himself is not finished making custom bicycles, though no immediate plan was given.
The recent closing illustrates the difficulty of mid to large size framebuilders to operate in America. Forty years of history and in a moment Serotta will be gone. What happened, or what didn’t happen? A few years ago the company moved into a new facility with a 5,000 frame/year capacity, but they were forced to scale back into a more sustainable business model. Did Serotta try to get too big? Is large-scale, domestic manufacturing just economically unviable these days?