CTech June Product Picks

by Matt de Neef

It’s time again to round up all the new and interesting products that have arrived at the CyclingTips office, and bundle them all together in our CTech Product Picks. In this bumper edition we’ve got all manner of cycling-related goodies for you to check out, including lights, clothing, electrolyte drinks, books, bags, saddles and a whole lot more. As ever, if you’ve used any of the products we’ve featured here, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Northwave Extreme Tech Plus shoes

Northwave has a new shoe at the top of its road range: the Extreme Tech Plus. The company has been steadily refining the design of the Extreme in recent years, doing away with straps, buckles and Velcro in favour of a lighter winch system. The Extreme Tech Plus now features two of these ratcheting winches (so-called Speed Lace Winch, or S.L.W. 2) that utilise cables from the sailing industry to secure the shoe in increments. A small tab allows each winch to be released in decrements (by pushing the tab) or completely (by holding the tab up).

The new shoe lacks a lot of stitching as the majority of the upper is moulded from a single piece of microfibre, thereby saving weight. The upper is stitched together at the heel where the cup is reinforced internally and a length of grippy fabric is added to improve the hold on the heel.

More weight is saved through the use of a lightweight carbon sole that also affords some ventilation for the foot. The sole is drilled for 3-bolt cleats and includes slots for Northwave’s Speedplay adaptor. The latter offers Speedplay users two advantages: first, an adaptor with a lower stack (Northwave’s adaptor is ~0.5mm thick compared to 3mm for Speedplay’s standard 3-bolt adaptor); and second, fore-and-aft adjustment of the cleat without having to remove the cleat.

The Extreme Tech Plus are claimed to weigh 235g for a size 42 shoe (the size 44 shoes reviewed here weighed 250g/shoe). The local distributor Bikesportz Imports offers the Extreme Tech Plus in a choice of two colours, white or fluoro orange, in sizes 39-46 (no half sizes).

For more information visit Bikesportz Imports or Northwave.

RRP: $400

CTech’s Take:

I’ve been wearing Northwave shoes for several years but the new shoes surprised me. The one-piece upper has modified Northwave’s traditionally roomy toe-box to provide a closer and perhaps more supportive fit. Indeed, the upper is noticeably stiff but I never had any trouble getting my feet into or out of the shoes. Riders with wide feet should be warned: these shoes are likely to be a poor fit.

The winches are simple to operate and adjust, however, the cables only release under tension. I found arching my foot while pressing the release tab was enough to release the cable for each decrement. Interestingly, once I was accustomed to the shoes (about a week), I didn’t find myself fiddling with the adjustment of the cables.

Out on the road, the Extreme Tech Plus shoes were comfortable and effective. I experienced a little discomfort during the first week of riding from extra pressure around my ankle, but by the end of the second week, my feet were unperturbed. There was plenty of stiffness through the soles, and while the uppers provided plenty of support, I never felt trapped in them.

All told, I’ve spent a month in the shoes and I’m pleased with them. I’ve reached the point where they’ve become unnoticeable, and for a shoe, that’s ideal. In the past, I’ve had trouble with my big toes pushing through the upper where light fabrics have been used, but there is no danger of that with these shoes. There is also very little stitching that can split, so while it’s too soon to predict how the Extreme Tech Plus will wear over time, I expect they will continue to provide a comfortable and supportive fit for many months to come.

by Matt Wikstrom

Santini Anna Meares Signature Series Kit

Speaking of her collaboration with Santini, Anna Meares said: “I hope I have inspired women to get on a bike. Having comfortable clothing is a must when riding, and the colour choices in the design and fabrics used in this collection have been chosen with this specifically in mind. Santini always does it right!”

For more information visit the Santini website.

RRP: Knicks: $189; Jersey: $159.

CTech’s Take:

During the Tour Down Under at the start of this year, Olympic Track Cyclist legend Anna Meares launched the first of Santini’s signature series of clothing. The collection is purely aimed at women; colour choices and design specifically chosen to encourage ladies to enjoy their time spent on the bike.

The knicks are obviously a women’s specific design; comfortable straps, snug gripper leg bands, a wide, plush chamois and comfortable cut makes for riding happiness. The jersey is flattering; a stretchy, thin, breathable material has been used, which sits well over all bumps without clinging anywhere. The kit sits nicely once on, and pocket size – unlike a lot of women’s kits – is of a reasonable size; tools, snacks and essentials all fit well, and sit supported at a good height.

Comfort continued right through a long ride, with the only issue to report being the leg gripper sliding up above tan-line mark. The fabric wicks away sweat efficiently, and the chamois allows skin to breathe, while still maintaining amazing levels of comfort. And the signature of a champion printed into the graphics would almost surely make legs stronger and faster if racing track.

by Caz Whitehead

Chris King R45 Hubs

Chris King has been manufacturing high-precision bike parts since 1976, and from the beginning, he was intent on producing parts that were also extremely durable. To this end, the company manufactures its own stainless steel and ceramic bearings along with the shells and axles to satisfy its own rigorous standards.

The R45 hubset is built around 17mm hollow alloy axles and King’s own stainless steel bearings with adjustable preload collars. The front hub weighs 103g, the rear 224g, and both are available in nine colours (silver, pewter, black, red, navy, pink, green, gold, and mango). There are multiple drillings for each hub (16/18/20/24/28/32 holes front, 20/24/28/32 holes rear) and freehub bodies to suit 11-speed Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo.

For more information visit the Chris King website.

RRP: Front: $253; rear: $465.

CTech’s Take:

The upfront cost may seem exorbitant but these hubs are designed for many years of use. The R45s are reasonably easy to service (10 weight synthetic oil is recommended) though specialist tools are required to replace the bearings.

Weight-weenies won’t find much appeal in these hubs because the R45s are more concerned with durability. If you’re tempted by a set of custom wheels, then the R45s are one of the best hubs to consider for the job because they are beautiful, resilient, and come in a stunning range of colours.

by Matt Wikstrom

Specialized Edition S-Works, Romin and Chicane saddles

The Specialized Edition program was developed to celebrate the the accomplishments of riders for the brand. Initially focusing on limited run frames and builds, the program has extended to accessories and parts.

The popular Romin, S-Works Toupe Pro, and Chicane saddles have been given the Specialized Edition treatment with three limited designs. Here’s what Specialized has to say about the three saddles:

S-Works Toupe Pro:

With Adaptive Edge base and construction technology, allowing the outer edge to conform to the rider’s body, this ultra-light saddle has been tuned for an outstanding fit, while the flat profile and thin padding are perfect for explosive efforts.

Romin Carbon:

This stiff, competitive road/tri saddle is contoured to position the rider for optimal power transfer and comfort; its extra-wide Body Geometry channel maximizes blood flow.

Chicane Carbon:

Returning to a traditional racing shape, this curved saddle has downturned sides, dual-density padding, and a full-carbon shell for optimal power transfer.

Note that these saddles are not available for purchase, but stay posted on how you can win one.

CTech’s Take:

Each of the three saddles comes beautifully presented in a wooden box, complete with the story behind the design, matching bartape and handlebar endplugs. The saddles have been re-covered and embossed and look stunning.

Only 200 of each design were produced, and each saddle comes individually numbered. Complimenting the Romin Carbon ‘Stay Corked’ saddle is the brown leather ‘Belgian Classic’ (Chicane Carbon) and the modern ‘Red is Faster’ (S-Works Toupe Pro) editions.

by Andy van Bergen

BBB Strike and Scope Front Lights

The Strike and Scope are BBB’s most powerful lights. The Strike is a compact front light that is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery with a choice of 300 or 500 lumens output. The battery is charged via USB and the unit has five output settings (super beam, high beam, standard beam, low beam and flash beam) that are selected by pressing the single power button.

The Scope is equipped with two beams powered by an external battery pack. There are two versions to choose from — 800 lumens or 1,300 lumens — with four output settings (super beam, high beam, standard beam, and low beam). The Strike is supplied with three mounting brackets (helmet, standard handlebars, oversized handlebars), power pack with lead, an extension lead, and an AC charger.

For more information visit the BBB Parts webpage.

RRP: Strike BLS-71 (300 lumens): $120; Strike BLS-72 (500 lumens): $150; Scope BLS-67 (800 lumens): $250; Scope BLS-68 (1,300 lumens): $330;

CTech’s Take:

The Strike front light is a simple affair. The bracket and light work as expected and at 500 lumens, the BLS-72 does a great job at fighting back the dark for over 1.5 hours with the super beam setting. Charging is equally simple and owners can expect at least 400 charging cycles. The battery pack is replaceable for the Strike however the price puts this light at the upper end of its class.

The Scope offers plenty of power for adventurous riders looking to ride in unlit areas. While the battery and light can be mounted on a bike, the simple strap lacks versatility and the pack is prone to rattling. The battery weighs 207g so it is probably best stashed in a jersey pocket when using the light with the helmet mount. However, I was able to wear the battery on my helmet for over an hour without much distraction (or a sore neck).

The light unit needs a few moments before it will start up — I would have liked an indicator light for when the light is ready to use — but once it is running, it serves as portable daylight for over 1.5 hours at the highest output. Like the Strike, the price puts this light in the upper end of its class. It is worth noting that the battery pack has a USB outlet for charging a small iPod or even a phone, which may improve its appeal for some.

by Matt Wikstrom

4Shaw Hellbent leather gloves

Here’s what the folks at 4Shaw have to say about their Hellbent leather gloves:

Sharper than sharp and heading in one direction – straight down. Our Hellbent short finger gloves are made with premium Scandinavian Elk leather and feature embroidered fingers in the traditional tattoo style.

For more information visit the 4Shaw website.

RRP: $80

CTech’s Take:

Immediately noticeable on these classic leather gloves (in both white and black) is the set of bold knuckle tatts spelling out FOUR SHAW whenever you are gripping the top of the bars.

These classic-styled gloves have been given a functional makeover with gel padding and soft nose wipe. The perforated upper means that your hands won’t get too hot (we tested these at the other end of the temperature scale) and the soft-touch leather looks like it will withstand a fair amount of punishment.

by Andy van Bergen

Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag

Chrome made its first messenger bag more than 15 years ago. They needed a quick-release buckle for getting a fully loaded bag off quickly. They didn’t have money to make our own buckle, so they salvaged a seatbelt buckle from the local auto yard and an icon was born. To maximise durability and weatherproofness, every Citizen is made twice. The inside liner is made with military-grade tarpaulin and, according to Chrome, “can hold two six-packs of beer side by side”. The outside is made with abrasion-resistant, 1000-denier Cordura.

For more information visit the Chrome website.

RRP: $189.95