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Tech Round-Ups provide a look at some of the gear that comes across our desks here at CyclingTips. Sometimes it’s products we’re doing long-term tests on, other times it’s stuff we found interesting but don’t have time to fully review. And, sometimes it’s just an intriguing innovation someone sent us unsolicited.
In this edition, we take a look at a whole bunch of new soft goods and accessories, and some neat tools.
Fizik Vento Stabilita Carbon road shoes
Words by James Huang
Fizik has long touted its “dynamic” arch support concept whereby the panel of material right by the arch is supposedly pulled taut when you tighten the main closure. According to Fizik, when you “properly support the plantar fascia”, your foot becomes more stable and you’re able to transfer power to the pedals more efficiently. In the past, though, I’ve always found it to be a bit of a mixed bag.
The new Vento Stabilita Carbon carries on with the Dynamic Arch Support idea, but it’s now far more radically implemented. The all-new carbon plate is dramatically cut away under the arch area, and the overlapping nylon webbing that sits there is now directly connected to the main strap. As a result, when you crank the main closure down, you can finally genuinely feel that boost in arch support that Fizik has long claimed, but struggled to deliver.
The upper is made of a nylon mesh with a layer of polyurethane laminated over the top, while two of Boa’s latest Li2 low-profile dials provide dual-direction micro-adjustability and a convenient pull-to-release function. Riders who have always found Fizik shoes to be too narrow and too tapered will be happy to hear that the toe box is not only wider than before, but also more squared-off as well for a more accommodating fit. Down below, that new carbon plate sports a vent under the toe to help keep your feet cool, and the cleat holes are situated in a more reasonable position slightly further back relative to older Fizik shoes.
Fizik offers the Vento Stabilita Carbon shoes in sizes 36-48, with half sizes from 37 to 47, but only a single black and fluorescent yellow color for now.
Actual weight for my size 42.5 sample pair is 521 grams, including insoles.
Price: US$400 / AU$600 / £375 / €400
Weight: 122 grams (size large)
More information: www.fizik.com
VeloColour Bidon Stuff Bag
Words by James Huang
The idea of using one of your bottle cages for storage instead of fluids is hardly a new one, and there are plenty of options on the market currently, most of which comprise various incarnations of a cylindrical plastic box. If you want something with a little more class, Canadian outfit VeloColour offers up its Bidon Stuff Bag.
VeloColour stitches these up in Toronto with a textured vinyl outer shell sourced from US manufacturer Maharam, a water-resistant liner, and a YKK waterproof zipper that promises to keep your contents clean and dry. If you’re careful with your packing (and especially if you use an extra-compact polyurethane tube), there’s enough room inside for a road or gravel inner tube, a CO2 cartridge and inflator, a small multi-tool, and tire lever.
It certainly looks nicer than those generic plastic containers — as you’d hope, given the premium price — but maybe best of all, the soft-bodied construction means the stuff inside won’t rattle incessantly as you roll along, which will make this small luxury more than worthwhile for some.
Price: US$37 / AU$50 / £28 / €31
Weight: 85 g
More information: www.velocolour.com
Wera Bicycle Torque Wrench Set 1
Words by Dave Rome
Wera, a German hand tool company, has recently started pushing into the cycling market with a range of its fastening tools. Almost all of these are carry-overs from Wera’s pre-existing lines but many are bundled with fixing bikes in mind. And that’s exactly the case with Wera’s “Bicycle Torque Wrench Set”.
The set is based around Wera’s A5 1/4” square drive torque wrench (also available separately). It offers a massive torque range of 2.5 to 25 Nm, with clear and tactile .1 Nm adjustment gradients throughout. The wrench is claimed to offer +/- 4% accuracy (an international standard), but I measured my sample as being consistently on the lower half of that claim (-4% off expected torque) for torques between 3-8 Nm.
Adjusting the ratcheting wrench is simple with a light resistance and a locking knob that remains open until you close it. However, adjusting the wrench through that generous torque range can take some time as one full turn equates to a 1 Nm adjustment. Also of note is that the tool stands at 300 mm long, surprisingly long for a 1/4″ model.
The kit includes a large and useful range of Wera’s high-quality hex and Torx sockets for most common fasteners, and there are two long reach hex sockets included, too. However, what I missed having was a long reach 4 mm for certain seat post and seat post wedge designs.
The kit comes wrapped up in a semi-rigid folding box, with the sockets secured by twist-lock holders. There are few companies in the tool game doing packaging as nice as Wera. Of course, such attention to detail comes at a price. This is an item for those that value quality tools.
Price: US$469 / AU$466 (often found for less online)
Gazelle Ultimate C8
Words by Caley Fretz
It’s not often that we test step-through, relaxed e-bikes here at CyclingTips. But Gazelle offered this one up for a few weeks and I jumped on it, because I tend to love bikes like this.
The specs on the Gazelle C8 are all in the range we like to see on an urban-focused e-bike. It’s Class 1, meaning a 20 mph (32 km/h) max speed in the US, and uses Bosch’s Active Line Plus mid-drive motor paired with a 500 kWh internal battery. That combination provides a good distance range, around 30 miles (48 km) on Turbo mode, up to 70 miles (113 km) in Eco mode.
Built-in lights front and rear are a nice touch. I like lights you can’t accidentally leave at home. The belt-drive is superb. Low maintenance, quiet — everything you want in a bike that’s going to get daily use and is likely to get put away wet on occasion. Shimano’s Nexus eight-speed internal hub is great as well – my only real complaint is that the Nexus grip shifter works in the opposite direction as the old SRAM Grip Shift I grew up racing on. That muscle memory refuses to fade and I shifted the wrong way every damn time. But that’s a me problem, not a Nexus problem.
The little Cannondale Headshok-like front suspension and suspension seat post might seem silly to those of us used to performance bikes. But they’re great. Just a bit of give is all you need to smooth out small potholes and road seams, precisely the sort of thing you encounter riding in an urban environment.
A couple of small complaints. The rear rack has an elastic strap that is handy for carrying light items but doesn’t hold tight enough to strap down anything heavy, like a U lock. I wish the rear light had a blink mode. And something on the front of the bike was making a wind whistle when I got close to 20 mph. I’m sure this is fixable, but I was unable to track down the culprit. It wasn’t loud enough to be particularly annoying.
I very rarely get in my car for trips across town. But having an e-bike like this in the garage takes rarely down to never. That’s its superpower: You don’t do any calculations – can I make it in time? Do I need to stay presentable? You just hop on and go. It’s faster and easier than driving in almost every instance.
This isn’t an e-cargo bike. If you’re hauling lots of stuff or replacing a car, look elsewhere. But if you’re just getting to work (do people go to work anymore?) or running to the store for some milk, the Gazelle is a good option.
Weight: It has a motor. It’s 54 lb (24.5 kg).
More information: https://www.gazellebikes.com/
PRO Bike Gear Team Y-Wrench
Words by Dave Rome
The Y wrench is a classic part of any bicycle workshop. It aims to keep the most used tools at easy reach and with the right amount of leverage for most tasks.
The accessory division of Shimano, PRO Bike Gear, has a new Y-Wrench that aims to make the fabled Y-Wrench even more useful. Instead of fixed tools, this one features three 1/4″ semi-locking bit holders which drive the six included double-sided bits. The tool’s handle offers magnetic slots to hold onto the three bits that aren’t in use, and there’s also an 8 mm hex seated in the centre.
With a full metal construction, the tool has a solid feel in the hand. The provided double-sided bits snap into the tool but remain easy to swap with greasy hands. Unfortunately, those bits lack size markings for easy identification and the stubby exposed length can be a little lacking for getting into deep-set bolts such as those found on some rear derailleurs.
Personally, I like that Y-wrenches keep your most commonly used tool sizes handy. This tool does that, but the interchangeability creates complication and slows the process. PRO didn’t intend it to be used as such but I’ve found that replacing the bits with long reach “drill driver” style bits of my own choosing turns this into one of the better three-way wrenches on the market.
Price: US$40 / AU$60
Weight: 188 grams
More information: www.pro-bikegear.com
Skullcandy Push Ultra sport earbuds
Words by Matt de Neef
Push Ultra is the top-of-the range wireless earbud offering from US headphone brand Skullcandy. The Push Ultra is sleek, stylish and comes in four different colours — black, red, yellow and green. They stay attached to your head with bendable arms that wrap around your ears. This keeps them relatively sturdy, but I found they could fall out if I knocked them (I’d recommend removing them before taking your helmet off, for example).
These aren’t true in-ear headphones — they seem to sit over your ear canals rather than in them, meaning quite a bit of outside noise tends to bleed in. This is by design — Skullcandy calls it “Stay-Aware Bud Design” — and it’s great for maintaining awareness if you’re using these out on the road. But I also found that whatever I was listening to was often drowned out by road and wind noise, unless I cranked the volume. I also found that sound from the Push Ultra was a little thin and tinny by default.
Pairing with your smartphone via Bluetooth is easy and the earbuds are very convenient to charge courtesy of a wireless charging case. Both earbuds have a main button plus volume buttons, so you can control your audio or calls using whichever side you prefer. The earbuds are also waterproof (and sweatproof), which I certainly appreciated on the few wet rides I did with them.
In short, these are a solid little offering but if you’re keen to buy them for riding outdoors, just be mindful of how much noise they let in.
Price: US$99 / 129.99€ / AU$249.95
More information: skullcandy.com