Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
Anyone who uses six-packs as a unit of measurement is on the path to success in our eyes. The Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag claims to hold two six-packs side by side, but we found it actually easily has capacity for more (weight does start to become an issue at this point though!).
The interior of the bag is lined with a ‘military-grade’ tarpaulin, which means none of your classified documents will get wet when the weather turns sour. The main flap of the bag is fastened with wide velcro, and then additional buckles keep things tightly in place. The buckles also mean that you can overfill the bag quite considerably and still keep everything in place.
A zipper stash pocket means that your valuables won’t end up on the side of the road, and additional interior pockets provide plenty of storage solutions.
One of the most striking features of the bag is the seatbelt buckle on the shoulder strap, which is a tip of the hat to the brand’s origins. Wide padding on the strap ensures that even heavier hauls don’t cut into the shoulder, and a stabilising strap means that the bag doesn’t bounce around when on the bike.
by Andy van Bergen
Fyxo ‘King Bright Light and Bidons
The ’King Bright front light employs a Cree LED with 850 lumens output coupled with a Samsung 5200mAh battery pack. The combination yields around five hours run time at maximum output, 20 hours at low output, and much longer for the strobe setting. The on/off button doubles as a charge indicator, glowing green for 70-100%, blue 40-70%, red 10-40%, and flashing red <10% remaining. The ’King Bright comes packaged with a one amp AC charger that will charge the battery in around 7.5 hours, two rubber O-rings for mounting the lamp, a 1.2-metre extension lead, helmet mount, and a neoprene battery pouch. Fyxo has also added a couple of new designs to his bidon collection. The Pave design is a colourful cubist riff that takes its inspiration from the Mapei professional team; the Granciclismo design borrows heavily from a famous bottled water brand and includes song lyrics from Queen and the Beatles. For more information, visit Fyxo.
RRP: ’King Bright light $89; Bidons, $19 each
A couple of years ago, Fyxo’s 1000 front light impressed me on the basis of its sheer power and value for money. The ’King Bright is an equally impressive iteration. In this instance, Fyxo has moderated the output in favour of a significantly longer run time, which is a nice overhaul, as is the battery indicator.
Installing the ‘King Bright on the bike was quick and easy. The battery is compact, reasonably light (283g), and the pouch can be wrapped around various parts of the bike such as the stem, top tube, saddle rails or seatpost. The simple O-ring mount for the light head was sturdy and rubber backing ensured that it never rattled or slipped on the bars.
I would have liked a few clues for using the helmet mount. Once I’d stumbled onto the solution, the mount proved sturdy, versatile, and at 106g, easy to wear. I was able to mount the battery on the helmet without much effort, but it proved a little too heavy and was better stashed in a jersey pocket.
The ‘King Bright lived up to expectations in the dark with enough output for me to make my way along an unlit trail with confidence. On suburban streets, the low setting was just as effective and bright enough to capture the attention of every waiting car. Overall, the ‘King Bright is a ‘king awesome light.
As for the bidons, Fyxo continues to impress and delight. The colour of the Granciclismo bidon turned water into green cordial and the Pave is a time-travel machine. Enjoy!
by Matt Wikstrom
Find Your Freedom (FYF) Hors Catégorie kit
Here’s what the team at FYF say about their Hors Catégorie kit:
For those that are always searching for the biggest and the best. The FYF Hors Catégorie jersey sits at the apex, balancing a host of leading edge ingenuity with understated style. Designed without compromise for all day comfort in the pursuit of personal bests everywhere. Features include: bio-ceramic fabric for advanced performance and comfort, cashmere underarm with micromesh side inserts, pixel reflective sleeves.
The FYF Hors Catégorie bibshorts feature a 4-way stretch fabric, anatomically contoured to move as freely as you do, 3D designed FYF BIO contoured chamois with S.A.T, and pixel reflective, laser cut hems.
For more information visit the FYF website.
RRP: Hors Catégorie bibshorts: $169.95; Hors Catégorie jersey: $169.95; Bibestique bibshorts: $129.95; Rouleur jersey $129.95.
Our first impression of the FYF Hors Category kit when opening it up is that it has a very ‘Swiss-inspired’ feel to it. The construction has been really well thought through, with aesthetically pleasing features on the jersey like hidden zippers, rear external elastic, and a simple sublimated design on the chest.
The design and material lay-up are all well executed, and are balanced by functional features like reflective ‘pixel-dot’ material in the arm cuffs. This is repeated in the bib leg bands. Without printed panels on the bib shorts, the black material is a true black, and not a printed approximation. The all-important chamois contact point features a multiple-density anatomical construction, and feels comfortable to wear.
by Andy van Bergen
Giro Empire ACC Shoes
Here’s what the team at Giro has to say about their Empire ACC Shoes:
A classic laced closure offers unrivalled fit adjustment and complements the new, highly breathable Evofiber microfiber upper for superb fit and comfort. A revamped Easton EC90 ACC full carbon sole offers all the stiffness needed for everything from Grand Tours to gran fondos, with ultra-low 6.5mm stack height for a direct connection to the pedals. Our adjustable SuperNatural Fit footbed lets you fine-tune the fit and arch support, for an unmatched blend of performance and style.
For more information visit the Giro website.
The introduction of lace-up shoes in a market filled with velcro, ratchets and dials is an interesting choice, which feels led by aesthetics over performance. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the laces provided a great level of support, and once set didn’t need to be altered or adjusted mid-ride.
After two shortish warm up rides in the shoes, they were worn in on an endurance ride of more than 17 hours. Despite the long saddle-time there were no pressure points, and the shoes were worn the entire time. One concern when we first picked up the shoes was the potential for the laces to be caught in the chainring. This is alleviated by gathering the laces and bundling them through an elastic catch on the tongue (as seen in the second image above).
With minimal perforations and only one small toe vent the shoe is warm in cool and cold conditions.
by Andy Rogers & Andy van Bergen
IsoWhey Sports Electrolyte Formula
Here’s how the team at IsoWhey Sports describes their electrolyte formula:
The ultimate sports rehydration formula – coconut water with a specific electrolyte composition and UltraMag a unique blend of magnesium chelates. This formula assists with rapid replacement of fluid and electrolytes and supports energy, stamina and endurance.
IsoWhey Sports Electrolyte Formula also assists in relieving muscular aches and pains and in preventing muscular cramps and spasms. Coconut water is a naturally rich source of electrolytes potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium, vitamin C, B6 , folate, iron and phosphorus.
For more information visit the IsoWhey Sports website.
RRP: $37.95 for a 500g tub)
When you screw open a container of Isowhey Sports Electrolyte Formula the first thing you’ll notice is how sickly sweet the pineapple-flavoured powder smells. Thankfully, when you mix it in water to the recommended “dose”, the sweetness and flavour aren’t overpowering.
Instead the beverage takes much like salty coconut water, which is to be expected given the product uses powdered coconut water as a base. We noticed some of the powder falling out of solution after being left for a while but this isn’t something a good shake of your bidon won’t fix.
It’s worth noting that a 600m bidon of Isowhey Sports Electrolyte Formula (made from 30g of powder) contains roughly 300mg of sodium. From what we can see, that’s nearly double the amount of sodium in comparable electrolyte drinks such as Powerade, Hammer Heed or Endura. It doesn’t taste overly salty while you’re drinking it, but afterwards you do notice a salty aftertaste.
by Matt de Neef
Merckx 69 photobook
Here’s what publisher Bloomsbury has to say about Merckx 69:
Merckx 69 documents Eddy Merckx in 1969 — considered to be the best year of Merckx’s road cycling career. Written by a close friend of Merckx, this beautifully produced book features previously unpublished photographs by Tonny Strouken, who spent most of 1969 following Merckx during his epic racing season. A lovingly produced paean to one of cycling’s greats, in his 69th year.
For more information visit the Bloomsbury website.
Quite simply, this is a big beautiful book the documents the best year in the career of arguably the greatest cyclist that ever lived. In 1969 he won the Tour de France (including six stages, the points classification, the KOM classification and the combativity award), four stages at the Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Paris-Nice (including four stages), to name just a few.
The book opens with a foreword from Merckx himself before documenting all of Merckx’s big wins with great photos (many of which we’ve never seen before) and some text to provide the context.
This book is perfect for your coffee table or as a gift for a Merckx fan, or indeed for anyone with an interest in the career one of the true greats of the sport.
by Matt de Neef
Bontrager RL Road Women’s Shoes, Solstice Women’s Gloves and Race WSD Shorts
Designed for the enthusiast market, the RL shoe is the higher end of the women’s product range. Featuring carbon / fibreglass sole, stiffness while maintaining adequate ventilation, easy-to-operate low-profile buckle and a secure fit, these shoes are designed for good power transfer and greater comfort.
Solstice Women’s Gloves feature a women’s fit, and inForm GelFoam padding for improved comfort and less fatigue on long or short rides, by reducing pressure on the ulnar nerve, helping to eliminate discomfort and hand numbness.
The Race WSD Short packs tremendous value into a very attractive, performance-ready package. Constructed from strategically positioned compressive and breathable Profila fabrics, the Race WSD Short features a pre-shaped, multi-density, women’s specific inForm Race chamois, clean cut compression band leg grippers, and reflective accents for improved low-light visibility.
For more information visit the Bontrager women’s apparel website.
RRP: Shoes: $249; Gloves: $39.95; Shorts: $114.95.
Upon first trying on the RL shoes, the snugness was immediately noticed. Having never considered myself to have a particularly wide foot, these shoes sat firmly around my feet. Fit length was true to European size, with a wide tox-box for those requiring a bit more room.
These shoes are very solid, but incredibly light-weight. The inner-soles are extremely flexible, and caused a fair deal of foot numbness, but once swapped for something with a little more arch support, these road shoes perform well, even on longer rides.
Hand numbness is often complained about with new cyclists, and gloves are what is often forgotten when first purchasing a bike. Gloves that look after the ulnar nerve are important, reducing hand and wrist numbness when riding for extended periods.
The Solstice gloves are soft, without too much bulk. The Velcro tabs don’t get in the way of movement, and the fit is snug, without bunching or pinching anywhere. Easily slipped on and off, they also feature a large microfibre strip along the thumb for absorption of wiped moisture for the cold mornings, or hot afternoons.
Finding a pair of shorts that don’t dig into midriff skin or expose bare back can be difficult. Bibs are often the answer, but restrict bathroom accessibility and speed rather dramatically. When a pair of shorts address both of these common issues, it’s a great achievement.
Tested both under regular clothes while commuting, and as road bike, long-distance-travel outer shorts, these performed well in both aspects. The leg-grippers were firm, but not too tight; the only issue I found was keeping them in place, as they liked to ride up the leg after a while. Reasonably flattering shaping fabric has also been used.
by Caz Whitehead
Specialized Isle of Man Commonwealth Games kit
This is the exact same kit that will be used by the Isle Of Man team in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, including Mark Cavendish.
The jersey features SOLAR fabric produced by Mirhon Shadow, UPF +50 Hydrofit finishing, three open back pockets and an extra reflective waterproof pocket with a zip, plus a full front zipper with internal protection.
The front of the bib short braces are made of a yarn containing carbon fibre. The back has a mesh insert for good sweat management. The chamois features Men’s Body Geometry PRO SL Padding with flat-lock stitching preventing friction while riding.
For more information visit the Specialized website.
RRP: Jersey: $217; Knicks: $253.
The first thing I noticed about this kit is that it’s most definitely made for athletes who are in top form for the Commonwealth Games in Glascow. My usual sizing (medium top, large knicks) was on the tight side, but I might be the one to blame for that.
The next thing that stands out is the quality of the garments. It’s clear that these are no token jersey and knicks combo that are simply about a one-off design. They’re made from Specialized’s SL Pro collection which fits into the top shelf of riding apparel that I’ve experienced. The knicks have heavy duty and lightweight paneling in all the right places, their own Body Geometry seat pad (which looks to be made by Elastic Interface) that features three densities, as well as silicon leg grippers to keep the legs in place. The jersey is most definitely a race cut fit which has nice arm-length, a nice sleek Polyester/Elastomer front, and mesh panelling at the rear (Polyester/Elastaine) with tapered pockets and a zipped pocket. It’s a simple, understated design that will never go out of style.
by Wade Wallace
Lifeline USB rechargable LED Lights
LifeLine USB LED Double Beam Light Set
USB rechargeable double front and rear light set. With six lighting modes, a water resistant casing and simple operation, the LifeLine Double Beam LED is an ideal light for dark commute lighting conditions and night riding.
Features include: Precision CNC machined Aluminum and PC Body, USB Rechargeable, Tool-less mounting strap (fits 20-40mm Bars), Six lighting modes, Water Resistant Sealed Casing, Battery Life: Single Beam – 54 hours Flashing mode, 14 hours Low Beam, 7 hours High Beam. Double Beam – 27 hours Flashing mode, 7 hours Low Beam, 3.5 hours High Beam.
Front output: 80 Lumen (max), Rear output: 30 Lumen (max).
LifeLine USB High Power 300 Lumen Front Light
The high powered, professional 300 lumen front light. With five lighting modes, a water resistant casing and lamp beam upper cutoff line to protect the vision of on-comers, the LifeLine High Powered LED is perfect for dark lighting conditions.
Features include: Precision CNC machined Aluminum, ABS and PC Body, USB Rechargeable, Switch functions for five different lighting modes – High, Medium, Low, Flash & Quick Flash, CREE High Power LED, Tool-less mounting strap (fits 20-40mm Bars), Water Resistant Sealed Casing, Battery Life: 60 hours Quick Flash, 12 hours Flashing mode, 6 hours Low Beam, 3 hours Medium Beam and 1 hour High Beam
Max Output: 300 Lumen
Lifeline is Wiggle’s own brand name for their parts and accessories line-up. They do everything from pumps to bartape. We were sent some of their Lifeline lights to review and I must admit, they weren’t what I was expecting. The quality is as high as you’d expect from the more prominent brands and well thought out. My favorite thing about these lights is that they’re easy to mount on any frame tube shape, and switching modes or turning on/off while riding is extremely simple. They’re great value for money and the fact that they’re USB rechargable means you won’t be spending extra on batteries.
by Wade Wallace