Monday, September 15, 2014

Shimano PRO Vibe 7S Anatomical Road Bar Review

Photo courtesy of PRO Components

First off, I have a confession to make.  I really, really hated taking these bars off my trusty Trek 2.3 testbed.  They were some of the most comfortable, functional, durable, and good looking bars I have ever used, I now understand why they are such a hit in Pro Peletons around the world.  However, in the pursuit of knowledge through ceaseless, selfless testing, I had to do the deed.  Courtesy of the fine folks at Tweaked Sports, of Glendora, California, a brand new set of Ritchey Streem II alloy bars dropped into my hands for evaluation (a write-up will be coming on those later, after I get some miles on them).

Pro markets the Vibe 7S as a “Do-All” road bar, suitable for both racing and training, with the durability of aluminum offering peace-of-mind in the event of a crash.  The latter is why so many pro teams prefer aluminum over the lightness (and cool factor) of carbon fiber bars.  With a carbon bar, the spectre of cracks and delamination are always lurking under the bar tape.  With alloy bars, that lack of a sudden, catastrophic failure is negated (for the most part).

I used a 44cm wide Vibe for 10-months (drop 140mm, reach 80mm), and it was tested on local training rides, Century’s, mountains, the coast, river trails, and even some dirt fire roads.  The bars were some of the most, if not the most, comfortable I have ever used.  The tops are a constant diameter of 31.8mm, from the stem to the first bend, and my size-large hands really liked that.  And, that top bend radiuses just perfectly into the Ultegra 6700 shifters I am currently using, tapering to 23.75mm from the drops to the bar ends.  The anatomical portion of the bar was another thing which fit my hands just right, though the balance of comfort while on the hoods and in the drops meant bar angle was a critical factor in achieving a perfect setup.  Additionally, and a quality of alloy bars which I like, is that you can feel the bars flexing over rough surfaces, so they do indeed dampen out vibrations and harsh bumps; A really good thing.

To sum it all up, would I personally use these bars again, and also recommend them to others?  You bet! 

The Pics:

The anatomical bend.

Wide 31.8mm tops for maximum comfort. Nice "PRO" graphics, too.

The upper radius is well-shaped. Combine a Vibe 7S stem, and the control is excellent.
The Specs:
  • AL-7050 construction for increased rigidity
  • Integrated Dual Cable Routing for brake and shift-cables
  • Available in Round, Anatomic or Compact bends
  • Sizes: 38, 40, 42 and 44cm (C/C)
  • Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: from 260g
  • MSRP: $99.00 USD

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Welcome To The Wild, Wild, West.

Due to commitments, and that thing called “Life,” I was off the bike for pretty much the whole month of August.  Too busy to get on-board, I did throw quite a few looks of affection her way as I was coming in, and going out, the door.  Well, I finally decided I was MAKING time to go out for a ride and reacquaint myself with my bike, my legs, and some of the local roads.  And in regards to the latter, well, let me tell you, after today’s training ride, it seems I did not miss a thing.

It is time us to face the facts: We now live in a lawless society, with people pretty much making up the rules as they go, and, of course, the rules apply to themselves, only.  Motorists, cyclists, and even pedestrians, plus everyone in between, peeps are pretty much wholly dismissive of one another today.  The real problems arise when we get a whole society of these creatures together, and one can just watch the machine of humanity slowly grinding to a halt.

While my training ride was pretty much “Business as Usual” as far as purposely rude humans goes, there were some real standouts which warrant special mentions from the ride.  They were kinda’ like Kenny Blankenship’s Most Painful Eliminations of The Day, without the brutal impacts, water traps, or being caught on actual video.

The first shout-out goes to Casa Colina Rehabilitation Center, in Pomona, California.  From an organization in business of healing bodies, their employee’s and guests seem determined to put many-a-cyclist in there as patients due to how they ingress and egress from the property.  It is one place to really watch yourself, lest one becomes a guest, Pronto!

Next up, “Johnny Skinhead.”  From the bad haircut, to the dirty, ripped clothing , to the complete beater-car, this guy already had stereotype written all over him, and that was before he blew the light a full four-seconds after it turned red for him.

My next victim of ridicule, “Jose Oldsmobile.”  This creep not only blew through a stop sign, but he almost plowed into me, two cars at the intersection, plus a man simply just opening the door to his own truck.  “Jose” was traveling so fast, and had such a dangerous disregard for others, that both the truck driver and I tried to track him down and get his license plate to report him.  Alas, “Senior Oldsmobile” was gone in less than 60-seconds.

Then, there was “Toni Hawkeye.”  This knucklehead felt it was his job to be hauling ass in the bike lane – Opposite traffic, while astride a skateboard.  And, this moron was not going to move for anyone, including little ‘ol me and my bicycle.

And finally, I present “Chrissie Curbhugger.”  She felt it was her job, after picking up her cretin kid from school, to drive in the bike lane for about 150-yards before making a right turn, rather than merge into traffic with everyone else, as she was legally required to do.  While she was waiting at the red light (I know, shocked me, too) I politely told he that it is illegal to drive in the bike lane for reasons of convenience.  Yes, she actually had the nerve to get angry regarding the situation: At me.

“Ah, the Flowers of Humanity, I used to think.”  Now, all I think I have been experiencing have been the weeds.

Stay vigilant, my friends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Rolled A “Fatty” Today.

The Farley. Photo courtesy Trek Bicycles.

Being I have been personally known to pretty much try any new thing twice, I welcomed the opportunity to try out a “Fatty.”  A Fat Tired bicycle, that is.  And while this is by no means a “Review,” it is more of a personal revelation about a class of bikes I had, to this point in my life, personally dismissed.  So, what did I discover?  Well, it was one of the most unexpectedly entertaining things I have done in a long time.   

Courtesy of the fine folks at Pasadena Cyclery, I was invited the opportunity to ride a Trek Farley.  And, being true to my approach to “New Things,” I thought, well, goofy as those darn Fat Tired bikes looked, I welcomed the chance to try one of those odd contraptions out.  And, I am delighted to report I have now been enlightened to what all of the fuss has been about regarding this genre of bikes.  They are absolutely amazing!

While I did not “Take it to the Hills, what the shop’s terrain did provide was a pseudo-rock garden, dirt, and some deep gravel.  The Farley just ate it all up.  ‘Matter of fact, the wide motocross-width tires encouraged foot down cornering like my old mountain bike never did.  Those tires are just plain versatile and fun.  One caution I did come away with was the urge to resist riding it like a regular mountain bike.  With those big tires, and wide, flat pedals, one need not be afraid to lean the sucker over and get a foot out, enduro-style.

In addition to rolling smoothly over every piece of terrain, the rest of the Farley’s package was equally impressive.  First, the phenomenal Avid hydraulic disc’s, at least to this Roadie, were the best brakes I have ever used on a bicycle.  Why some peeps are afraid of disc brakes on road bikes is beyond me, and those people are going to be missing out.  If this level of power and modulation are what’s in store for road bikes, we are all in for a real treat, not to mention a level of safety yet seen on road bicycles. 

The SRAM X7 shifters delivered, along with a SRAM X0 front derailleur and an X9 rear derailleur.  The stock seat was fully adequate for the job at hand (not that you are going to spend much time on it), plus the seatpost is a quick-release, height adjust contraption, so setting the right height for a ride will not be an issue.

And for the record, Fat Tired bikes are an activity I plan to try a lot more than twice.   

For complete Farley specs, clicky here for Trek’s website.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Racing Bicycle Meets Racing Motorcycle.

Concept racing bicycle

50cc Kreidler roadracing motorcycle, circa 1980.
KTM 125cc roadracing bike, circa 2012.

Can't recall where we came across the above concept bicycle photo, but we like it.  There are some interesting ideas at work here, however, the creeps at the UCI would have a mental breakdown just looking at the photo, alone.

The actual ergonomics of efficient pedaling may not be realized, then again, with no human in the photo to ascertain the bar, seat, pedal relationship, we will just have to speculate. 

The bicycle sure looks cool, though, and it looks pretty darn aero, too.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Glendora Mountain Road: Sometimes, You Just Gotta’ Climb The Hill.

I don’t know what has gotten into me lately.  After a few years of semi-serious road bike riding, I have become somewhat addicted to hills (it can’t be the coffee, however, I am not sure about the water).  What this has led to is a semi-serious love affair with Glendora Mountain Road (GMR).  Take a recent “Encounter,” for example. 

I actually arose pretty early (by my standards), and moseyed on-over to the intersection of Sierra Madre Boulevard and Glendora Mountain Road (GMR), focused on a solo day’s ride up the ribbon of switchbacks.  Though riding solo, no worries, as I knew where the road went (a quick note on rising early that morning; Since I could not sleep the previous night, for some reason, I was truly not feeling my best as I began to assault the hill.  However, grinding out a sustained climb has a way of activating the body’s natural rhythm, and I just kept pedaling and forgot how icky I had felt when I stated the climb).  There were actually quite a few cyclists on the hill, and thankfully, not too much vehicle traffic.  In addition to all of the roadies, there was some kind of shuttle taking fat tire riders (mountain bikes) up the hill, where they were let off just passed the road maintenance shack.  It looked like they were taking the fire trails back down the hill.  I also saw a few downhill skateboarders and one street luger (and I thought I was crazy when I raced motorcycles back in the day).

Up, up that ribbon of highway…

As I was grinding out yet another switchback, I came upon two people I recognized at a turnout.  From there, the three of us dragged each other up the hill, sharing stories and jokes along the way.  I was also quite impressed with one of the riders, named Manfred.  For a newer rider, he simply does not quit.  He just kept going and going up that hill.  After our stroll to the top, and a quick pause for drinks and photos, the really fun part began – The decent.  Nothing will put a smile on your face like bombing a really good stretch of downhill.  I made full use of it.  Once at the bottom, we parted ways, and I made for the sanctity of my own kitchen for a well-deserved post ride meal.   

In all, three things got me up the hill that day.  The Good Lord Himself, remembering Trek Factory Racing’s rider Jens Voigt’s famous words of “Shut up legs,” and a friend sharing his advice of counting to 100 repeatedly until the top of the hill is reached, so as to distract the mind while climbing.  It works out pretty good, too.  When the road heads upward, start counting until you get to 100 or the top of the hill, whichever comes first.  If you are not there yet, start counting over again until you get to the top.  I must have counted to 10,000 in total, that particular day.

To sum it all up, it was a good day to ride, a good day to climb, and the surprise company made for a very good time, indeed.

Editor’s Note:

Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) is a two-lane, well paved, multi-switchback road in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California.  It is about 8.5-miles to the top, with a published grade of 4 to 7%, with approximately 2200-feet of climbing.  It is a hotbed of activity for motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, skateboarders and street lugers.  It has even been used in the Amgen Tour of California a few times.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shimano PRO “550ML” Storage Bottle. The Alternative To Seat Bags And Jersey Pockets For All Your Stuff.

For any cyclist short of having their own, personal support vehicle on their rides, the storage of essential items becomes a must.  From spare tubes, to tools, nutrition, ID, money, and keys, we all need to have certain items with us on all of our rides.  Usually the first option people turn to for storage, after jersey pockets, are underseat bags.  And, why not?  They are useful, practical, pretty much indestructible, and are out of the way until absolutely needed.  However, there is another way.  Enter the Shimano PRO Storage Bottle. 

Storage bottles offer another practical way to hold the items required, and they fit in a space which is quite sensible – A bottle cage.  Why the bottle cage location?  Truth be told, most of our rides are not long enough to require two (2), large water bottles every time we go on a ride.  I can see a well stocked underseat bag on a Century, but on the bulk of the rides we cyclists do, two, large water bottles can be weighty overkill.  The storage bottle offers a nice, cleaner looking alternative to a big, seat bag, and truth be told, once you use a bottle to carry your stuff, you will wonder why you did not do it sooner. 

Innocuous storage - Most of the time we don't need two bottles.

And, you can cram a lot of stuff into these bottles, too.

The Specs:

  • A multi-function storage system
  • Currently available only in 500ML size (that may change)
  • Secure screw-on cap
  • Fits 74mm diameter bottle cages
  • Offered in either black or white

Editor’s Note:

Shimano advertises the bottle on their website in two sizes, both 550 and 750ML.  However, though the larger version has been in their catalog for a couple of years, it is, unfortunately, not available.  And, the smaller version is actually labeled on the packaging as being “500cc.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's Here! Ritchey Superlogic Carbon C260 Stem In Limited Edition Hi-Vis Yellow.

Well, it was just the other day that a very credible rumor floated into the Cycling Dynamics palatial offices that Ritchey was going to do a limited edition, full carbon C260 stem in Hi-Vis Yellow.  This was exciting for a couple of reasons.  First, the Superlogic's are the first, full-carbon stems from Ritchey, and second, this was to be a completely new color they have not done before.  Cool. 

Well, it is a rumor no more, as I actually had the chance to inspect (unfortunately, not try) one of the new, very rare stems over at my sponsor's office, Tweaked Sports, of Glendora, California.  The brothers Brian and Patrick were kind enough to call me up and invite me to come and see one of the first new stems released by Ritchey.

After forcing my way in the door, the first things I noticed upon viewing this beauty (after the striking color, of course), was just how stout, and light, the stem truly is.  I have tried pretty much every Ritchey stem there is, and I really like their offerings a lot, but I have yet to try one of the Superlogic units (after seeing the Hi-Vis version, I hope to recityfy that problem - Hear that, Tweaked Sports!)  It is extrely light, the paint, finish, and carbon weave in the stem body were all first rate.  The thing I did notice which really caught my attention, though, was the seven (7) bolts now required to mount the unit, and they are now Torx heads, not the usual hex heads.

Out of the box, this 90mm version is truly a work of art.

The curves on the slot allow for more even clamping forces, and reduced stress on the steer tube.  There are three Torx head screws to ensure a good fit.

Well, from what I could ascertain, the stem looks to be a damn good offering from the minds at Ritchey.  I hope to get my hands on a test unit soon, and I'll let you know how they work out.  I truly expect this to be the stiffest stems I gave ever tried, and I have tried a lot of them from different manufacturers.

The Specs:

  • C260 bar clamp creates a larger stem-to-bar interface, drastically reducing bolt stress
  • 4 x T-20 faceplate bolts and patented 260 degree bar clamp design reduces weight, increases stiffness and distributes stress more evenly
  • 3 x T-20 steer tube bolts and curved clamp slot reduces weight and steer tube stress
  • Fits most road and mountain bars
  • Material: Carbon with 2014 alloy faceplate
  • Lengths: 90 - 130mm
  • Angle: 84/6 degree
  • Steerer Height: 42mm
  • Faceplate width: 40mm
  • Steerer: 1-1/8" or 1-1/4" (International only)
  • Limited edition yellow finish
  • 125g (110mm)

Retail from Ritchey is $279.95 USD

Tweaked Sports can get 'em to you for $254.95 USD