The new CABDA West Expo, a regional bike show, opened its doors on Wednesday at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Racetrack. The Chicagoland Area Bicycle Dealers Association show has expanded from its homeland show to add this one on the west coast, coincidentally timed as if to fill some of the industry show void created by Interbike's cancellation for 2019.
BikeRoar was there for day one of the two-day show, and it appeared Jim Kersten, CABDA's president and show director, did a great job selling out the floor space to what was mostly well-known bike-centric exhibitors, all who were upbeat and excited to be there. Attendance was light to start day one, no doubt hampered a bit by the unusually rainy SoCal weather that either delayed some arrivals or kept attendees away, but the foot traffic and buzz in the hall picked up as the day went on. By the afternoon, the rain had stopped and the outdoor demo area was dry enough to draw out those who didn't want to step out and get wet earlier. We also expect that some local attendees opted to attend the show and Education Series seminars over one day and that many more were there on day two.
Here's some of what we saw:
Lazer Bullet 2.0 Helmet
Lazer's Airslide ventilation system made the Bullet aero helmet a standout when it debuted in 2017. The new Bullet 2.0 (also available with MIPS) continues to offer on-the-fly adjustment of aerodynamics and ventilation, so you can get the balance that's right for you. Lazer has answered Bullet's greatest criticism, that it wasn't ventilated enough, by revising the internal channeling and opening up the rear venting. A new top cap option adds a Venturi forward-facing vent. All together they result in "thermal heat loss not less than 11% versus the original."
New to Bullet 2.0 is the inclusion of a magnetic lens system. Using the optional lens adds additional aeroness plus the famed optical clarity of Zeiss optics.
David Ballard, Tannus co-founder, and Sterling Petersen, National Sales Director, were on hand to tell us about Tannus' newest product, Armour, and showed us how to mount the New Slick airless road tires we're about to start testing.
Armour is a foam insert comprised of Aither, the same multi-cell foam compound as their airless tires. Armour inserts into standard tire and tube setups and uses a standard inner tube, giving benefits similar to tubeless without the hassle of setup and maintenance. (We've previously covered the advantages of foam tire inserts for tubeless MTB.) Armour gives significant top and sidewall protection from punctures, allows you to run lower air pressure for better grip and vibration dampening for comfort, and acts as a damper to prevent against rim damage from impacts. Armour will be available in March or April for MTB and larger road/gravel/adventure (35 mm or wider) tires, priced at around $40.
Selle SMP Saddles
We sat in on the "Selling High-End Saddles" presentation by Selle SMP's Nicolò Schiavon and Gianluca Caliari of U.S. distributor Albabici. Schiavon imparted valuable tips to the retailer audience and explained how Selle SMP's new F30 and F30c (compact) saddles, versions flatter than their traditional "beak" design, meet the needs of more riders' tastes while still incorporating the company's overall ergonomic goals for cyclists.
Helite B'Safe Airbag Vest
That's right, an airbag for cyclists. Helite started as airbag systems developed for the light aircraft sector, and has now adapted the systems for other high-risk activities such as motorcycling, horse riding, and now bicycling.
The B'Safe vest for cycling is made to protect the neck, thorax, and back in the case of an accident. A computer in the vest uses a complex algorithm to detect when an accident is occurring and automatically deploys the airbag to act as a barrier and shock absorption protection. A separate sensor that attaches to your bike detects impacts – like that of a vehicle striking a rider from behind. Once a situation is detected, the computer sends an electronic signal to fire a ballistic charge that opens a CO2 cartridge and inflates the air bag. At 60 milliseconds for detection and 80 for inflation, this all occurs in about half the time it takes to blink an eye.
Knut Wagner put us into a vest for a manually triggered demo and his colleague took video. We'd love to show it to you, but haven't gotten it back from him yet. Instead, here's a look at Incycle Co-Owner Mark Smits getting his.
The pop of the vest going off is startling, even when you're prepared for it, but it's not deafening; it would likely be the least memorable thing, if at all, in the case of an accident. The vest inflation isn't hurtful; it's more like a good bear hug, and air immediately starts to discharge to give whoever is wearing it room to breathe.
Who's it for? Certainly not weight weenies and aero-seeking roadies. B'Safe is targeted to commuters, semi-casual riders with under-developed skills, and e-bikers, both because they may be lesser-skilled and traveling at higher rates of speed, putting them at greater risk. The vest is a considerable investment at $699, though it is well designed and re-usable; recharge units are $50. We asked Knut about accidental deployment and he insists the algorithm is advanced enough to all but avoid it on the road, however, it's not yet ready to be used in the challenging motion context of mountain biking.
Giovanni Caporali, Managing Director of Limar, presented "Selling Premium Helmets" along with Albabici's Gianluca Caliari. Caporali stressed the importance of fit and comfort and explained how Limar continues to innovate (like with their CarbonCoreTech) to give their helmets more of what customers want – greater aerodynamics and comfort – while not treating those attributes as mutually exclusive.
Marin is known for its mountain bikes, like the "exceptional value" Hawk Hill, but don't be surprised that they offer a competitive lineup of other style bikes, including road, adventure, urban, fitness, kids bikes, and e-bikes. (Forgive us here as we replace most of our terribly bad photos with better stock ones.)
Gestalt X10 is "the mountain biker’s dropbar bike" - an adventure/gravel bike with Series 3 Beyond Road 6061 Aluminum frame, a step up from the entry-level Gestalt's Series 2. The X10 ($1249 MSRP) is a 1x drive, with a SRAM Apex shifter, GX derailleur, aluminum wheels with thru-axles, and enough space to clear 700C x 42 or 650B x 47 mm tires. Go with the X11 ($2099 MSRP) and you get several worthwhile upgrades, like an extra gear to make it 1x11, SRAM Rival derailleur, and SRAM Rival 1x11 shifters - yes, shifters, where the 'extra' left one is modified to control the added dropper post. Color choices are limited; the X10 comes in Satin Silver/Orange and the X11 in Satin Black/Red. Availability at your local bike shop is expected starting in February.
Hawk Hill Junior, like its full-size progenitor, continues to impress as a serious full-suspension MTB for smaller riders. The bike comes standard with 24" wheels, but the Series 3 aluminum frame is built with growth in mind and clearance for 26" wheels. The rest of the spec is quite capable, yet modest enough, to keep the MSRP at $1599.
Lastly, the Fairfax 4, a hybrid/fitness bike which Marin tells us has been quite popular with the university crowd. In Marin fashion, it offers bang for the buck and room for upgrades. In this case, the $1099 MRSP includes aluminum frame with internal cable routing, 10-speed Tiagra drivetrain, Vee Baldy puncture-resistant tires, Shimano flat-mount hydraulic disc brakes, and rack and fender mounts to enhance its commutability.
The Robert Axle Project
The Robert Axle project was born of the need for the company's founders, Chris and Katy Bryce, to attach a BOB Trailer to their mountain bikes with thru-axles. There was no solution, so they created one, and are now thru-axle experts, offering thru-axles for trailers, trainers, and as upgrades and replacements, including for proprietary systems like Focus R.A.T. axle or NAILD. They design and machine their thru-axles in Bend, Oregon.
If you're wondering how Chris and Katy came to name their company with 'Robert', it's because they decided against using 'Bob', as in Bob Trailers, to avoid any legal entanglements that could create, and instead went with the augmentative form of the name.
Thru-axles bring several benefits, but one of their shortcomings is they take longer to remove, extending the time it takes to remove a wheel. Whether for race scenarios, where every second counts, or just to satisfy today's fast-moving world, some systems have been created to put quickness to thru-axle removal while upholding their strengths. Focus Rapid Axle Technology (RAT) and Naild 12-3-9 are two. Richard Wittenberg from Lucidity offers a new one – the Quick Release Thru-Axle (QRTA).
QRTA has a thru-axle nut with a spring-loaded button and internal clamp that locks onto the ball-ish joint of the axle. (The clamp mechanism is kind of like the drawstring / cord clamps on jackets or backpacks.) Push the axle into the nut to engage and it's immediately locked into place, and then push the button to easily release and pull out. In our hands it worked fantastic, and it seems like such a simple idea it's a wonder no once came to it before. We didn't get info on when QRTA will become available, but it's estimated to retail around $60.
We first learned of TASCO back in 2015 and have been fans of the clothing brand ever since. It was good to see founder Nate Miller in person again, not far from his HQ in Carlsbad, and now showing off a bigger selection of stoke that includes TASCO's new Double Digits MTB collection.
Double Digits is a combination of thoughtfully paired gloves and socks. TASCO launches a new Double Digits combo – what they call "fresh produce" – monthly, and we're glad to see them working with bike shops to drive traffic.
Kids' bikes are tough on parents who strain between buying junior a good bike and one that's too good or that she won't grow out of too quickly. Frog Bikes certainly aims higher, believing that lighter bikes, better components, and kid-specific designs are key to comfort and enjoyment, so they admit they won't be the cheapest of options on the bike shop floor, but they do offer quality and performance. Frog has balance bikes, first pedal (BMX style) bikes, hybrid bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, and even track bikes.
The Tadpole Mini is an adorable looking balance bike (awwwwww) with smaller lightweight frame, pneumatic tires, safety steering lock, and a rear hand brake. The rear handbrake isn't just for show – it's functional and there so the child can learn to hand-brake at an early age.
The GameChanger aero helmet (right, yellow) remains at the top of ABUS' road lineup; it's the one you see on Movistar riders. Viantor (left, orange) is their entry level road helmet (MSRP $99.99). It looks very similar to the Aventor, which is further equipped with full activate system. Aventor is way vented and pretty light (240 g for size small) and is priced well (MSRP $179) for a top end helmet. It has been available in Europe since last year and is now getting its CPSC clearance to hit the U.S. in another month or so.
We didn't see AirBreaker, the April-anticipated ultra-lightweight helmet Movistar is also working on with ABUS. Not sure if we missed it or if Sales Manager Collin Myers was holding out on us.
There were saddles aplenty at the Selle Italia booth. The Novus Superflow ones caught our eye. Novus Superflow Endurance is made for comfort on longer-distance rides. The Boost Gravel Superflows have compact shapes and beveled tips to relieve pressure when you ride on the nose. Heritage is in a vintage style brown and the Tech black, silver, and white.
Also on display was the idMatch Cleat Fit system, built to help position or re-position cleats with precision. After taking foot measurements with an instrument and putting them into the app, the data to position the cleat beneath the shoe is calculated to set the idMatch jig. A goniometer disc applied to the cleat and a frickin' laser beam allows for setting the right position.