2018 Sea Otter Classic tech gallery, Part Three

by James Huang


When it comes to cycling equipment, much of the appeal lies in the massive breadth of choices that are available; with even a little bit of modification, bikes can easily be personalized to suit the rider better than a fully stock machine.

Those modifications go beyond color choice, too, with everything from sizing to component models and even tire treads that can be altered at will to suit the particular circumstances. Tire companies continue to grow the wealth of options on the gravel side, for example, Masi Cycles has joined the list of brands now offering custom paint, and Koo has enough color options for its sunglasses that you can raise your matchy-matchy game to the next level.

Even e-bikes aren’t excluded from the game, either. Want some lighter-weight carbon fiber crankarms for your new e-MTB? Yep, it’s indeed a brave new world out there.


Love tubulars? You’re in luck. Zipp has added new tubular versions of its flagship 454 NSW aero road wheels, in both rim-brake and disc-brake variants. Carrying over are the same features as the clincher version, including Showstopper textured brake surfaces (on rim-brake models), the unique dimpling pattern, printed-on graphics, and the speedy Cognition hubset. Claimed weight for the rim-brake set is 1,435g (640g front; 795g rear), and the disc-brake pair is slightly heavier at 1,515g (685g front, 830g rear). Retail price for either set is US$4,000 / £3,417 / €4,000.

For tubular riders on (slightly) more reasonable budgets, Zipp has added a sew-up version of its workhorse 303 Firecrest, too, which will also be offered in rim-brake and disc-brake variants. New to the rim-brake version are the same Showstopper textured brake tracks as on the flagship NSW models, as well as Zipp’s fancier ABLC Sawtooth dimple design. Claimed weight is 1,339g for the rim-brake set (593g front; 746g), and 1,410g for the disc-brake set (655g front; 755g rear). Retail price for either set is US$2,500 / £2,321 / €2,600.

Zipp has updated its tube-type clincher with a new wider standard size – 25mm instead of 23mm – and a new rubber compound that promises longer wear and improved grip. The Tangente Speed version pictured here is designed for lower rolling resistance with minimal puncture protection, while the tougher Tangente Course version gets an additional layer under the tread to guard against cuts. Retail price for the Tangente Speed R25 is US$70 / £68 / €76. The Tangente Course R25 costs US$68 / £58 / €70.

Zipp’s new Service Course SL80 Ergo drop handlebars sport a versatile 80mm reach, an ergonomic-type bend, and a wider center section for use with clip-on aerobars. Laser-etched markings aid in lever positioning, and the 7000-series aluminum construction helps keep the claimed weight down to 275g. Retail price is US$110 / £109 / €123.

The new Zipp Service Course 80 Ergo handlebar offers the exact same shape as a the SL80 Ergo model, but in a slightly heavier 6061 aluminum alloy. Claimed weight is 315g, and retail price is US$55 / £54 / €61.

Zipp says the new 3° backsweep on the Service Course 80 Ergo and SL80 Ergo drop bars keeps your wrists at a more natural angle for improved comfort. Also aiding that argument are the flattened tops, which help distribute weight over a larger area than standard round bars. The ends of the bars also get holes for use with Shimano’s latest Di2 junction boxes.

Shimano’s new Ultegra RX rear derailleur is the first road model from the Japanese giant to include a clutched pulley cage for improved chain security and reduced noise when riding on rough terrain.

OneUp Components’ new dropper seatpost offers an unsual amount of travel for a given amount of exposed seatpost. According to the company, most riders will be able to gain an extra 25mm of drop. Retail price is US$250 (including the remote lever, cable, and housing), and total weight is about 580g.

OneUp Components was able to offer more travel for a given amount of exposed seatpost by decreasing the stack height. Between the shorter collar and the dropped saddle rail cradle, the company was able to gain about 25mm of travel relative to a RockShox Reverb.

The simple trigger mechanism on the bottom can be manually actuated, so even a broken cable can be overcome on the trail.

The molded fiber-reinforced composite remote lever is very lightweight, and rotates on a large cartridge-bearing pivot. A textured concave paddle promises a secure grip for your thumb, and three mounting options are available to work with most brake systems on the market.

OneUp Components’ EDC (Everyday Carry) line of stowable tools is one of the best out there. New to the line is a tire plug tool and master link pliers. The entire kit either fits inside a large-volume pump or your steerer tube.

Masi Cycles may not be the first company you think of when it comes to mainstream brands that offer custom paint, but that may soon change. Starting in just a couple of months, Masi will offer its Evoluzione road frameset in fifteen different paint schemes, and in both rim-brake and disc-brake variants. The US$2,000 asking price includes the frame, fork, headset, and headset spacers – all painted to match – along with a standard black carbon fiber seatpost. Masi is quoting a three-week delivery time.

Even in the shade, this custom-painted Masi Evoluzione road bike is wickedly bright.

For an added cost, Masi will also include a painted-to-match 3T stem. Matched stems are rarely seen outside of the handbuilt world, so it’s fantastic to see the option at more realistic price points.

Masi Cycles’ CXR is shown here in gravel trim with Kenda Flintridge tires, a Shimano Ultegra Di2 transmission, and Praxis Works’ ultralight Zayante Carbon 1x crankset.

Masi Cycles first showed off its “unicorn blood” paint finish at Sea Otter last year, and it’s great to see that it remains in the lineup. This hue will command an additional charge over other standard options in Masi’s custom paint program, but it seems well worth the investment.

Knight Composites recently released its new tubeless-compatible carbon fiber road wheels and rims, which the company developed with input from Schwalbe. Tire installation and removal are impressively easy, as is inflation with a standard floor pump. Road tubeless is heading in a good direction.

Knight Composites engineer and designer Kevin Quan says there are several things about the TLA’s rim profile that make it so amenable to tubeless tires. The tapered shape of the unique rim hook firmly wedges tire beads in place without allowing the sidewalls to bulge too far outward or blowing off of the rim, the inner lip provides further security, and the precise heights and shapes of the hook and central channel make for easy tire installation and inflation. The generous internal rim widths are well in keeping with modern trends, too.

Knight Composites will offer its new TLA (tubeless aero) carbon fiber road wheels in 35mm and 50mm depths, and in both rim-brake and disc-brake formats. Claimed weight on the rim-brake TLA 35 is 1,430g per pair, and the TLA 50 is 1,510g. Retail price is US$2,300 per set across the board.

Knight Composites engineer and designer Kevin Quan built a test rig that allowed him to see exactly how different rim shapes interacted with tubeless tires.

Other companies have built models to help understand how tubeless tires and rims fit together, but this one seems quite ingenious.

Plus-sized mountain bike tires measuring 2.8-3.0″-wide were once considered to be the future of mountain biking until people realized that the increased weight, vague handling, and pressure sensitivity weren’t enough to overcome the increases in traction and comfort. For smaller 27.5″-diameter wheels, it seems that many companies have settled on 2.6″ as a sweet spot for all-around use – especially enduro – and Continental has answered the call with a new version of its Baron. The tall knobs and open spacing should make it a good match for loose terrain where traction trumps rolling speed.

Continental has actually revamped its entire mountain bike range, with refined tread patterns and all-new casing constructions. The redesigned Cross King, for example, sports a tighter center tread than before to help improve straight-line speed.

The Continental Race King has always been a fast-rolling tire, but grip wasn’t exactly its forte. Continental hopes to correct that with the newly refined tread pattern.

The new Mountain King is one of the more interesting-looking patterns in Continental’s current range. The tread was designed in collaboration with Adidas, who uses a similar design on its trail running shoes.

The previous Trail King was one of Continental’s most popular models thanks to an incredibly versatile tread design that somehow managed to work well on seemingly every type of trail terrain. The new version fills in some of the gaps in the shoulder tread for even more secure cornering.

Cordura nylon is used to reinforce the sidewalls on Continental’s latest mountain bike tires, improving abrasion and cut resistance over the previous models while actually improving rolling resistance. New labeling includes recommended rim widths for a given tire size, too.

Koo continues to expand its range of made-in-Italy eyewear. The new Orion sports a striking dual-lens design, Zeiss-certified optics, and a huge range of lens and frame colors. Retail price is US$200.

Sliding bits on the top of the frame provide tunable ventilation, plus an opportunity for some contrasting colors.

Earstems are adjustable for length. Interference with retention systems isn’t likely on helmets from Koo sister brand, Kask, but it could be a handy feature for other combinations.

For a more casual look, Koo offers the stylish California for US$150. Models with polarized Zeiss lenses will also be available for US$220.

Vittoria’s new Terreno Zero (top) and Terreno Dry (bottom) mixed-surface tires look pretty fantastic for their intended usages.

The new Vittoria Terreno Zero looks particularly interesting with its fast-rolling slick center and fish scale-like shoulder tread. Vittoria will offer it in 650x47c and 700x37c sizes.

Interestingly, the shoulder tread on Vittoria’s new Terreno Zero mixed-surface tire is directional given its dramatically ramped knobs. It’d be interesting to see if the tires are noticeably slower when run backwards.

Vittoria has added a new 29×2.1″ size for the Terreno Dry, making it well suited for ultra-endurance all-terrain events like the Tour Divide.

Vittoria’s new TLR tubeless-ready casing strips the carbon-black filler from the sidewalls and omits any additional sidewall protection for a more supple feel and a faster roll. It won’t be the best choice for riders who regularly find themselves on rocky terrain, but for racers looking for every possible bit of speed, it might be just the ticket.

Foam tire inserts are getting high-tech. Vittoria’s new Air-Liner inserts are made of molded EVA foam, and supposedly allow lower operating pressures to improve ride comfort and traction, but without the worry of excessive casing roll and pinch flats. We’re actually interested in giving these a shot, but the US$80/piece cost certainly gives us pause.

Vittoria’s ultra-fast Corsa Speed has now moved to a 25mm-size to replace the original 23mm one.

Vittoria’s new Elusion carbon fiber road wheelset is offered in both rim-brake and disc-brake versions, and 30mm and 42mm depths, all with tubeless compatibility and 17mm internal widths. Retail price is comparatively low at US$1,200.

Praxis Cycles says its new carbon fiber e-MTB crankarms can save nearly 200g over the aluminum ones more commonly used.

Saris’s new Glide hitch rack supports up to four bikes by the top tube…

…and pivots by a neat parallelogram linkage that keeps the bikes upright while giving you access to the rear of the your vehicle.

Hiplok’s new Z-Lok Combo provides a handy moderate-security solution for quick trips into the store. The stainless steel core is supposedly quite tough, but the nylon exterior and zip-tie design makes it fun and friendly to use. Retail price is US$25 / £17.

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