Another year is closing and as I look back it is hard to narrow down my list but here is what stood out the most.
MORE COMFORT MEANS MORE SPEED:
While the industry has historically relied on the thought that stiff bikes and parts with overinflated tires are the key to speed, however, modern data is telling us that the more comfortable we are, the better we can perform. Modern bikes (think Trek Domane or Specialized Roubaix) can be stiff and efficient yet still compliant, and that’s a really good thing. We’ve also learned that bigger tires with less air can be faster than a skinny tire with more air. What’s the takeaway? Embrace the larger tires, lower pressures, widgets and designs that improve ride quality, because you will have so much more potential.
TUBELESS MADE EASY:
As much as we love tubeless, we still have hesitations when it comes to setting it up. Sometimes the tire you choose pops on no problem, while others seem nearly impossible. Thankfully, companies like Mavic and Zipp are now producing tubeless systems that work perfectly together. Will their products work with other manufacturers? Sure, but for the most user-friendly results, these systems are the way to go.
FAVORITE DISC BRAKES:
No matter how delayed they were to make the jump to disc brakes, I’m grateful that Campagnolo took their time, because the wait has paid off. Hitting the market with a full disc line from Super Record to Potenza, Campy delivers a package of modernity based on their history of prestige and quality. The modulation and feel of the new brakes supersede that of the competition while maintaining the Italian brand’s classic aesthetics and controls. The calipers are rotor-size-specific, eliminating adapters for a more precise fit and alignment plus added safety. Overall, this new offering is my favorite road disc setup.
When it comes to road bikes, I am a sucker for a good-quality metal frame. I probably ride more carbon, but there is something special about the feel of titanium or steel between me and the road. So, when it comes to the bike that has left a lasting impression in 2017, it’s the Litespeed T2 Disc. The titanium frame mated to disc brakes and quality wheels is a match that delivers the performance I desire but with a unique ride quality that encourages me to ride longer each time I go out.
It was a big day in the office when three boxes from Zipp showed up. Starting with the small box, we found rotors and two sets of tubeless tires. As we cracked open the bigger boxes, we found a pair of Zipp 454 NSW disc brake wheels. We were stoked, at least until later that afternoon when we realized the new hoops were not tubeless. Really? These are the pinnacle of the Zipp line that cost $4000 and they aren’t tubeless compatible? After a chat with the guys from Zipp, they told us it came down to weight savings, and they felt this customer would take the weight savings over compatibility. Most of their line is tubeless, but not the uniquely shaped 454s, and for that I’m disappointed.
BEST NEW KICKS:
I have always had a very hard time finding road shoes that are comfortable during long rides. My foot is wide, and although sizing up would give me the volume I needed, my cleats would then be too far forward. That all changed when I got a pair of Bont Vaypor+ shoes. With their fit guide in hand, they had me take a few measurements of each foot before suggesting a size and—voila!—the shoes fit perfectly. But more than the fit is the quality and stiffness. The Vaypors are stiff and give me a feeling that I’m not losing a single watt with each pedal stroke.
1X DRIVETRAINS ON THE ROAD:
The evolution of 1x drivetrains and their popularity in both the road and gravel market are expanding quickly. In 2013 I built a 1x system for my road bike that offered better range than my double-ring setup, but at the price of wide spacing between gears due largely to the fact that most 1x systems relied on mountain bike cogs, which are designed for a totally different type of pedaling. Thanks to the necessity for new (bigger) cassette options for their 1x-dedicated Strada road bike, 3T has introduced their Overdrive and Bailout cassettes to fill the void at last.
BEST OUTSIDE-THE-BOX THINKING:
For as much change that has come to the saddle market over the years, I have to say that I haven’t been too impressed. That is until I met the guys from Landyachtz who showed me their new idea of finding a saddle just for me. Like many high-end shoes, their saddle is heat-moldable. The leather cover and carbon undercarriage give the saddle a premium look and feel, but it’s what’s under the leather cover that makes it unique. The special system needed to warm the moldable material is a bit complex, but it allows a rider to get a saddle that is specifically tailored to their riding position and pressure points. The system is also able to evolve with the rider as they progress and change rather than the rider having to look for a new saddle that fits their new needs.
MOST IMPRESSED BUT NOT SURPRISED:
Other than Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships, I don’t watch much pro racing, but I enjoy these races because they unfold much quicker than your typical multi-day stage race. Unlike previous years, Peter Sagan’s performances have been less circus-trick-oriented and more raw and honest. He is still a character and entertainer, but it feels more genuine than ever—and now a three-time world champion.
GRAVEL IS A THING:
While there are many that don’t understand the gravel trend, there are more than ever that do. Drop bars on dirt roads isn’t new but its now getting attention and makes for exciting technology innovations that can transfer over to the paved market too. Paved or unpaved a road is a road, and we want to ride them on our bikes no matter what they are called. Try one they are fun and open the route options up significantly even in the concrete jungle of LA. Or maybe try out one of the fantastic events like the DK200 that is 200 miles of public roads that for the most part are unpaved and amazing.
MOST MEMORABLE RIDE:
On my second trip to Iceland to visit the crew at Lauf Cycling, I encountered the most memorable day on the bike. To be honest, it’s probably the most memorable ride ever. Between the weather, route, new bicycle and amazing comrades, it will forever be on the top of my ride memories.