The Year in Review: Zap’s Best of 2017

Ah yes, another year to look back, another year to look forward. While the 2017 season marked a solid year for new bike technology, the overall theme of the bike industry was not that positive. Of course it didn’t help that the race season has to end with the news of Chris Froome’s enhanced use of an asthma drug at the Vuelta a Espana. Doping?! Kicked-out? Deja vu?

With 2018 just days away so what say we clean the slate, kick out the old, and ready ourselves to kick in the new with a look back on all the good stuffs that passed through the RBA offices in 2017.

LET’S GET STARTED

BEST OVERACHIEVER: It helps to be local on this one, but to know Jack Nosco is to simply be in awe of what one man can achieve and the positive difference in people’s lives that one man can make. Jack is the founder of the Mike Nosco Challenge and when he’s not working 24/7 to make that event happen, he’s a fireman, community organizer and all-around wonderful human being with a singular focus to inspire others to do better for those less fortunate. The sport of cycling is lucky to have Jack on our side.

 

BEST OUT-OF-THE-BOX ROAD BIKE: No less different than his approach in creating last year’s much-talked-about 3T Exploro gravel bike, this year Gerard Vroomen turned his attention to the road and created a bike that reflected everything that he thought made sense for a modern aero road bike including disc brakes and a dedicated 1x drivetrain. The Strada was as fast as it was deliberate and with it Vroomen once again proved himself one the industry’s most inventive bike designers. Better still, the odd ball bike has found its way into the pro peloton in 2018.

BEST OTB ROAD BIKE (LATE EDITION): After everyone else had the chance to ride it I finally got a few weeks on the much-talked-about BMC SLR01 that was being raved about. Simple in design and build, I couldn’t help but join the chorus on this one…wow, what a great, responsive ride. Still, for a bike lacking both disc brakes and an electronic drivetrain, the $9500 asking price seems downright foolish and remains a mystery that I can’t wrap my head around.

BEST OUT-OF-THE-BOX DUAL PURPOSE BIKE: Not just for its outlandish paint scheme, but the when Dave Turner turned his attention from designing mountain bikes to create our RBA Cyclosys project gravel bike he brought together a catalog of disparate components to create a bike that was more than capable on both dirt and paved roads. What began simply as a platform to test some TRP hydraulic disc brakes turned into an amalgam of road and mountain technology (Shimano Di2 XT rear derailleur, Rotor crank, TRP remote shifters) that coalesced into a sensational dual-purpose bike that highlighted what’s possible by mixing and matching components. Think of a BMW GS1200 as a throttle-twisting parallel.

BEST IRONY: When the private equity group that controls Louis Vitton purchased a majority stake in Pinarello, many people shook their heads, but at least you could see the symmetry between the two iconic, high-fashion brands. But when months later it was announced that the investment group run by the heirs to the Walmart corporation purchased Rapha. Walmart and Rapha…don’t get me started!

BEST IRONIC STATEMENT: There we were rolling along in the group ride when someone questioned the rationale of paying $1000 for Mavic’s new Comete Ultimate shoe. True, that’s a crazy price for a shoe, but the fact that this guy was wearing a complete Rapha kit with a street value of over $500 seemed, well, ironic.

BEST LAMMENTATION: “In recent years, racers, age groupers and professional racers I’ve talked to have all lamented the fact that new riders have great power but poor skills, because we as a community have prioritized power training and intervals over the local group ride.” Chris Carmichael, RBA, April 2017.

BEST THEN-TO-NOW PRODUCT EVOLUTION: A couple of years ago Hiplok sent us this massive, weighty bike lock (intended for commuters, bike messengers & hipsters alike), which, as the name implies, wrapped around your hips as you rode. Not my cup of joe at all. Lo & behold, this year they introduced the Z-Lok which is the most handy, lightweight, roadie friendly security system I’ve seen. Just $20 for two (in a variety of colors!) and perfect for the short-term security when running into a coffee shop or 7-Eleven. A new version is soon to arrive that uses a sturdier combination lock versus the pin-key system now used.

BEST PLACE TO EAT IN MILANO: The food, atmosphere and hospitality can’t be beat…the Bianchi Café is just a stones throw away from the Duomo…visit both and your life will be enhanced.

BEST PLACE TO EAT IN SOCAL: Our two fave cycling friendly spots are within a few miles of each other off Highway 101…Pedaler’s Fork in Calabasas and The StoneHaus in Westlake…both wonderful food with excellent riding in the Santa Monica Mountains right out the front door.

WORST NEW PRODUCT LAUNCH EFFORT: After a few decades away, we’re happy to see Pirelli jump back into the tire game, but trying to get the Giro d’Italia to include a downhill time-trial as a co-promotion of their new PZero tires was sheer lunacy.

BEST RESPONSE TO A BAD DESIGN: Similar to when, in the quest for more aero performance, Trek mounted the rear brake on their Madone under the chainstays only to realize that actual braking performance suffered, Specialized suffered a similar fate with their original Venge Vios. First rolled out in 2015 with some whacky, one-of-a-kind integrated caliper brakes that, while proven in the wind tunnel pretty, much sucked on the open road, for 2017 the new frame was sold only built with disc brakes…all of which led to…

Tour de France 2017 – 104th Edition – 3rd stage Verviers – Longwy 212.5 km – 01/07/2017 – Marcel Kittel (GER – QuickStep – Floors) – photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2017

BEST MOMENT WHEN NAYSAYERS WERE PROVEN WRONG: Remember when the retro-cranks were going on about how disc brakes simply didn’t belong? How the pro riders would never embrace them? Well, making right the “scandal” at the 2015 Tour de France (when Mark Cavendish opted for his previous model Venge rather than ride the ill-braking Venge Vios), Specialized took full advantage of the UCI re-allowing disc brakes in the pro peloton this year and handed disc braked Venges over to Tom Boonen and Marcel Kittel, each who would go on to make history with the first two UCI wins with disc brakes.

BEST TRANSPORTATION SOLUTION: With 225k + miles on my 2003 Toyota truck I finally decided it was time to drive a car. Enter a used Volvo XC60…now how to carry bikes? After years observing the increasing popularity of rear rack mounts, I decided to jump in the crowded pool and when I re-surfaced it was with a Kuat Sherpa rack. Simple, sturdy and actually attractive. I love this thing!

FAVORITE NEW RACER: What do you get when you mix characters like Jeff Spicoli (FastTimes at Ridgemont High) Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) and a pro bike racer? TJ Eisenhart. There I was, sitting on the couch watching the Colorado Classic on TV when TJ pedaled into my life. He had been enjoying a solo break for most of stage 2 before he was caught by World Tour riders Alex Howes and Peter Stetina. Suddenly a tense three-man battle emerged and while locked in battle on the course’s toughest climb, the Utah native turned a highly dramatic race into a supremely entertaining and personable spectacle with his friendly antics egging on the crowd. After dropping Stetina, TJ went on to just barley lose a sprint finish with Howes. In later day interviews the animated team Hincapie rider proved wholly unlike the typical, charmless, hyper-serious, mums-the-word, pro racer. Bravo TJ!

BEST PACKAGING #1: As impressed as I was with the visual appeal of Zipp’s new 454 NSW wheels, it was the over-the-top packaging that I found even more impressive. This is no standard wheel box and it proves that the engineering mindset at Zipp is not isolated to hard parts. Here’s a tip of the hat to whoever stayed up late thinking up this creative, ingenious and attractive package.

BEST NEW SHOE DESIGN: Giro has been working in the direction of creating footwear that has the same revolutionary impact on rider comfort and performance that their helmets did three decades ago. Although it’s a bit underbuilt for my tastes, with the arrival of the 300 gram (per pair) Techlace Prolight, they have delivered a shoe that, dare I say, is really transformational.

BEST IMPRESSION OF A TWO-WHEELED SUV: Although Specialized jumped into the gravel category early on, their original Diverge was soon outpaced with the quicker paced evolution of gravel bike technology. Not only did the 2018 Diverge family gain improved geometry and much needed wheel clearance, the pricey S-Works model brought their proprietary (and now progressive sprung) Future Shock front suspension along with a dropper post, three bottle mounts, rack and fender eyelets, built-in tool kit and a Shimano XTR Di2 drivetrain.

BEST DEFINITION OF WHAT WE DO: “Editors, you know, we don’t really do anything. To the owner, you’re sort of like a patch of old mold on the kitchen ceiling. You’re not quite sure about it, but as long as it doesn’t start dripping, you can just let it be.” Graydon Carter, retiring editor of Vanity Fair.

THE PRODUCTS THAT MADE ME TAKE NOTICE

Silca T-Handle Folio Kit: It was one hundred years ago that Silca started making their iconic floor pumps in Italy. Now an American brand, Silca has expanded into the tool market and their well engineered sliding T-Handle Allen wrenches are as impressive and useful as the elegant, waxed duck canvas bag that holds them. A definite upgrade to any cyclists’ workshop.

Campagnolo Disc Brake; As a long-time fan of the shape and feel of Campy’s standard brake lever, to now find the same levers doing the duty with their powerful disc brakes is reason to rejoice. Beyond the sultry shaped levers, the meticulously machined rotors are also the best looking of any production rotors. The downsized brake hoods are another nice feature…oh yeah, they are also the best all-around performing disc brakes on the market today.

Gaerne G. Stilo Summer Shoe: I have to admit that I have been slow to embrace the myriad of dial closures that so many shoe brands are now relying on. Depending on placement and how efficient the snug effect, I’ve never found that worked just right. Until the Gaerne G. Stilo arrived. Finally, a Boa shoe that actually felt as effective and easy to use as the good ol’ three strap style.

Bike-Tube Mini-Pump; Finding a handy mini-pump that is durable, works well, and isn’t expensive, has never been easy, until now. So far Bike-Tube’s dual stage Handler has gotten the job done reliably at a retail price of just $12. No, it doesn’t hit 100 psi, but it can get you home without calling Uber after you’ve spent your only C02 cartridge.

AND AS ALWAYS, THE BEST WAY TO START/END EVERY YEAR…
or every day for that matter is  with a little Joe Strummer…either as the front man for The Clash or with The Mescaleros….”If yer after gettin’ all the honey, then you don’t go killing all the bees!”

AS FOR 2018….A FEW THINGS TO REMEMBER…

Eat, drink, be merry…enjoy life…ride often & ride safe. #BikeLivesMatter

 

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