Component, accessory highlights from the 2016 Sea Otter Classic
The Sea Otter Classic isn’t just about bikes; there are heaps of new parts and accessories previewed for the coming season as well. Here’s a look at some of what you’ll soon find on store shelves.
New carbon clincher wheels from Praxis Cycles, Knight Composites, and Vittoria
Long known for hard-wearing and fast-shifting LevaTime forged chainrings, Praxis Cycles surprised everyone at Sea Otter with a range of carbon and aluminium wheels. The RC21 is designed for all-around road/gravel/cyclocross use with a 21mm-wide — but rather shallow — tubeless-compatible carbon clincher rim. Rather than focus on aerodynamics, Praxis sales and marketing director Adam Haverstock says the RC21 places a bigger priority on durability and serviceability.
Key features include a 3mm rim offset for more even spoke tension, a generous 32-hole spoke count front and rear, standard J-bend bladed stainless steel spokes, externally located alloy nipples, and proven DT Swiss 350 hub internals with 36-tooth ratchet rings for a reasonably quick engagement speed. At least for now, frame compatibility is limited to 12mm thru-axle front and rear, and Praxis is sticking with six-bolt rotor interfaces exclusively since you’re more likely to have a T25 Torx wrench on hand than a Center Lock tool — although that does preclude the use of Shimano’s 140mm-diameter Ice Tech discs, which are only available in splined fitments.
Claimed weight is a reasonable 1,570g per pair and retail price is US$1,799. Praxis aims to have the RC21 in stores around July.
Meanwhile, carbon road wheel specialists Knight Composites launched its own expansion, highlighted by new disc-compatible clincher and tubular versions of existing 35mm-deep wheels, plus an all-new 29” Gravel model. As compared to the road-specific aero wheelsets Knight have offered to date, the 29” Gravel uses a substantially broader 22.5mm inner width for use with 44-42mm tyres, plus tubeless compatibility to allow for lower operating pressures.
A svelte 355g rim weight helps keep the 29” Gravel wheelset weight down to just 1,323g per pair (claimed, with DT Swiss 240s hubs). Retail price is US$2,199 with Chris King R45 Disc hubs available as an option for another US$100.
Finally, Vittoria has grown its range of graphene-enhanced Qurano carbon road wheels with new disc-compatible clincher versions in 30mm, 46mm, and 60mm depths, all with 17mm internal widths, 12mm front and rear thru-axle frame compatibility, splined Center Lock rotor mounts, and easy tubeless compatibility with unique asymmetric tyre well profiles that the company says makes for easier seating when using standard floor pumps.
Claimed weights are 1,410g, 1,510g, and 1,570g, respectively, and all will retail for US$1,999.
4iiii Innovations debuts new ‘3D’ power meter
4iiii Innovations announced at Sea Otter an update to its single-sided, crankarm-based power meter. Brand manager Chris Nieckar says the the new Precision 2.0 power meter’s three-axis strain gage array (hence the internal ‘3D’ nickname) boosts claimed accuracy to “better than 1.5%”. The additional data will eventually also allow for more advanced metrics such as pedalling efficiency and smoothness.
Other features include a sub-10g claimed weight and reported battery life of around 100 hours. Perhaps most intriguing, though, is that the new power meter is still remarkably value priced at just US$399 for either a pre-installed unit on a Shimano 105 crankarm or a ‘factory install’ where 4iiii adds the meter to a consumer’s existing crankarm.
As if that pricing wasn’t enticing enough on its own, 4iiii has also partnered with Praxis to offer power meters pre-installed on the latter’s excellent Zayante hollow-forged aluminium road crankset for just US$550-580 complete (including chainrings and bottom bracket).
Challenge, Vittoria, and Maxxis preview upcoming cyclocross tyres
Cyclocross season is still several months away but that didn’t stop a few companies from previewing new tubular tyre options at the Sea Otter Classic.
Challenge debuted its new Team Edition “S” collection, which supposedly offers better traction than the current version with no decrease in durability. Key changes include a softer (but equally tough) rubber compound and a thinner sidewall coating for a more supple feel that’s better able to conform to ground imperfections.
Challenge will offer the new Team Edition “S” tubulars in the Grifo, Baby Limus, Limus, and Chicane tread styles along with a new one — the Dune — with an exaggerated file tread aimed specifically at deep sand. All of the Team Edition “S” tyres should be in stores now with a retail cost of US$130.
Vittoria previewed a new ‘cross tyre of its own using a recycled model name — the Cross XS — but with an all-new semi-slick tread design that uses a uniquely ramped, tightly spaced knob layout. According to Vittoria marketing and product VP Ken Avery, the center knobs “stand up” under load for increased drive traction on sand and handpicked surfaces, but lay flat otherwise for lower rolling resistance. That 1mm-tall center tread is flanked by 2mm transition knobs and 3mm shoulder blocks for predictable cornering, and it’s all mounted on Vittoria’s polyester/cotton casing.
Vittoria plan to supplement the tubular version shown with a tubeless-ready ‘TNT’ clincher version, and both will be available before the upcoming ‘cross season. Pricing is to be determined.
Finally, Maxxis had on hand a prototype version of its Raze ‘cross clincher, using the same open, low-knob tread as the consumer version but with a 120TPI nylon tubular casing surrounding the company’s ‘Flyweight’ ultralight butyl inner tube. At least for now, Maxxis have built these with UCI-legal 33mm casing widths and nifty interchangeable valve stems, but it’s still to be decided whether these will actually be put into production.
Oakley EVZero sunglasses lose weight, gain field of view
Oakley have followed up its recent Radar EV sunglass model with a decidedly more pared-down version called the EVZero, which uses a similarly extended upper lens area but a frameless design that both decreases the overall weight and further expands the field of view.
The EVZero is being offered in two lens shapes: the standard EVZero Path, with a somewhat more conventional shape, and the substantially larger EVZero Range, with a taller extension for riders that desire additional coverage up top. Both are available in multiple frame and lens tints — including Oakley’s outstanding Prizm series of lenses for road and trail use.
Retail price is US$170-200, depending on model. Custom options are pending.
Bont launches luxurious Vaypor+ road shoe revamp
Bont has moved to more natural materials for its latest Vaypor+ road shoes with a kangaroo leather exterior and cowhide liner, increasing the weight slightly relative to the outgoing all-synthetic model, but offering a more luxurious feel in trade for riders that put a greater priority on all-day comfort. Bont principal Steven Nemeth says the move also lends the new Vaypor+ a less “techy” look.
Although the redesigned Vaypor+ may look a bit more traditional, underneath is the same high-tech design that characterises all Bont shoes, including the ultra-stiff and paper-thin carbon fibre bathtub sole, the unique one-piece wraparound construction, and fully heat mouldable shape for a customisable fit. Bont will offer the Vaypor+ in six colours, four different lasts, and a generous 36-50 size range. Retail price is US$469.
Fancy tools from Enduro Bearings and Park Tool
Park Tool has launched a more premium truing stand to supplant its own long-standing TS-2. The more visually imposing TS-4 is intended to accommodate the full gamut of wheel sizes and fitments, all the way up to the widest fat bike rims and hubs (with room to grow, no less) along with both quick-release and thru-axle interfaces with no additional adapters required.
While the added versatility is welcome, Park Tool says the TS-4’s biggest advantage over the TS-2 is its increased precision. Not only are the hub width and indicator arm adjustments finer, but they also have less free play than before — plus the pivot holes for the uprights are only drilled after the base is welded for better alignment, according to Park Tool.
Retail price is US$350 with a target availability date around August.
Enduro Bearings is, of course, best known for bearings but they continue to build its catalog of support equipment for installation and removal, too.
Breaking ground at Sea Otter were two high-end tools aimed at the discerning mechanic — a front hub bearing press and a slide hammer-type bearing remover — both intricately machined in the United States from a mix of aluminium and stainless steel.
The front hub bearing press uses the company’s existing bearing drifts but with an “over axle” design with a main threaded shaft slim enough to slide through quick-release end caps. The bearing remover, on the other hand, uses a stainless steel (or titanium) main shaft with a machined aluminium slide and stainless steel expanding collet for easy removal of stubborn cartridges.
Both tools are designed with lower weight and smaller sizes in mind for travelling race mechanics. The front hub press is impressively compact already, while the slide hammer uses a modular shaft design that can be quickly disassembled as needed.
Retail price is US$129 for the bearing press and US$350 for the slide hammer with the standard stainless steel shaft — or US$500 if you opt for the titanium version instead. Both should be available within a few weeks.
Two different approaches to aerodynamic efficiency from Catlike and VeloToze
Aero road helmets have been proven in various wind tunnel tests to be among the most cost-effective ways to go faster without expending more energy; this year’s Sea Otter Classic hosted two very different approaches.
On the somewhat more conventional side is Catlike’s new Cloud 352 helmet, which uses an interchangeable upper shell — one with an array of small holes and the other with a solid surface for what the company describes as a “semi-aero” or “full aero” setup. Either way, there are still a few forward-facing and rear exhaust vents, plus deep internal channeling for flow-through ventilation at speed. Catlike will offer the shell sections separately as well for riders that want to customise the look. Retail price will be US$250 when the Cloud 352 arrives in stores around July.
VeloToze showed a decidedly more value-oriented and versatile option with a simple elastic helmet cover made of the same latex rubber material used in the company’s shoe covers. The stretchy material should work on most current helmet models (albeit with varied levels of fit quality) and at least in theory, the resultant smooth exterior should be more aerodynamically efficient. Nonetheless, VeloToze don’t offer any wind tunnel test results to bolster the claims (nor do Catlike, for that matter) but at least the cover is lightweight at just 45g (claimed) and comparatively inexpensive at just US$22.
Updated computer and accessory mounts from K-Edge and Bar Fly
K-Edge has replaced the two-piece clamps on its current computer and accessory handlebar mounts with a new hinged mechanism that is cleaner-looking and easier to use. Moreover, the new clamp is modular so it can serve as the base for multiple attachments — including its new GoBig mount for GoPro cameras or anything else that uses the same finned interface. Fans of the new Wahoo Fitness ELMNT computer get a compatible insert for use in all later-generation K-Edge computer mounts, too.
Prices have increased slightly, ranging from US$40-50 depending on model.
Bar Fly’s new production offerings were limited to an aluminium rear-facing GoPro camera mount, but Cervélo owners will surely been keen on the company’s upcoming out-front computer mount for use with the handlebars included on the S5 aero road bike. There’s no release date just yet, but the 3D-printed prototype looks quite nicely done with a clean shape and interchangeable inserts for use with multiple computer brands.