Most people who know me probably know that I have my favorites when it comes to bike gear. I’m also lucky enough to get to try a lot of gear just to make sure that my point of view from the soapbox has some deeper route than a loyalty to a brand or a stubbornness common in cycling. It is a bit of the “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” approach. I can be a bit reluctant to try something new, but if I think it has a chance of being cool, I’m likely to find a way to give it a shot. So for the last five years, my go-to has been the top-end framesets from Time, in the ZXRS and Skylon models, built with either the mechanical or electronic versions of Shimano’s Dura-Ace components.
This fall, I replaced my Skylon frameset with a newer one and this gave me the opportunity to give the new Sram eTAP electronic/wireless shifting a serious try. I had test-ridden eTAP equipped bikes on several occasions and was excited to really give it a go out on the road. Unfortunately my bike’s completion didn’t beat the snowfall. This was due to a great extended fall of mountain biking lasted until the middle of November and I couldn’t resist stretching the dirt season knowing that I’d have plenty of road time in the spring. I’m embarrassed to say that the first several rides of my eTAP group was on a trainer. Since I probably shift less than twice per ride on the trainer, my first exposure to the difference between eTAP and Shimano was the shape of the brake hoods. As it is with Shimano, it seems like one of the nice side-effects of an electronic group is having less constraints on the shape of the shifter body and being able to focus purely on ergonomics of the hoods. I wouldn’t say that the eTAP is necessarily better here, but they definitely did it right.
At the first glance of spring weather, I was able to get outside and get some real riding in and really give this stuff a test. I have to say I was really impressed with the overall performance of the group. Probably my favorite thing in the group is the tactile click that the shifter makes with each shift. This is the same thing that everyone said about Campagnolo’s EPS groups. Shimano’s road groups are notorious for feeling more like a “mouse-click” with each shift. The changes Shimano made to their mountain bike groups and the upcoming Dura Ace tell that they heard this from lots of people. Ok, maybe my real favorite thing is the unique way that the shifters work to control the front and rear derailleur. Having always preferred the movement or functionality of both Campagnolo and Shimano’s shifters over Sram’s Red Double Tap functionality, the eTAP definitely offers a totally new approach. One that is easy to explain to new users and really easy to explain to someone new to riding. It’s simple. Push the left button (the only button) to move the rear derailleur to the left. Push the right button (the only button here too!) to move the rear derailleur to the right. Push them both to shift the front to whichever chainring the chain isn’t currently on. It’s intuitive and easy to adapt to. Yes you can add “satellite” or additional shifters. Sram calls them Blips. I guess if I was still racing I’d maybe put a set of them on the drops for sprinting situations. The other noteworthy function is you can hold the shifter buttons down to shift the entire range of the cassette. Something that I never really thought was necessary, but I know people have always loved this with other electronic groupsets out there.
Push the buttons and it shifts. Well you hope so. I was a bit skeptical at how my bike would shift. I was running a non-Sram crank (so I could keep my SRM aboard to measure the rapid descent of my power output) and a Shimano cassette on my rear wheel. Mixing parts is always discouraged by the manufacturers and I understand why. Luckily there were no issues here. The bike shifted well. The shifters made crisp and precise clicks. I was even able to control them with fairly fat fingered gloves. My only “I don’t know if I can get use to that moment” came at the bottom of a steep short climb. Normally I’d drop the chain to the small ring and shift the rear into two or three gears harder in anticipation of where I’d need to be a couple of minutes later. Well you can’t shift the front and rear simultaneously. Is it a big deal? Probably not. It does require an additional step but it happens pretty quick.
The wireless eTAP makes setup easy and works seamlessly. Time will tell on this. We’ve got several eTAP groups out on the road and some of them have over six months on the road. It’s clear that Sram did their testing on this. I don’t really have a grasp on battery life, but I’m confident that this will be a non-issue like it is on both Campagnolo and Shimano’s electric shifting systems. I was a bit skeptical of having multiple batteries, but they’re smaller and easy to remove for docking in their charging station. One small complaint, I wish you could charge both batteries at the same time.
Obviously the main focus of any commentary on Sram eTAP is going to be about the shifting. What about the rest of the group? The brakes are superlight and work well. I’d say that a lot of carbon wheels and super light brakes take the “good enough” approach to stopping. These definitely are far better than that. The cranks look great and come in every configuration possible including having a Quarq powermeter on board. The chain, chainrings and cassette leave nothing to complain about. Shimano has always set the standard here and I’d say these guys have done a great job in the “continually getting better” category.
So the overall consensus is that the eTAP is really great. The sensation of actually clicking a shifter rather than tapping a mouse and the intuitive nature of how the system works are the highlights. I honestly feel that these features overshadow the fact that the system is wireless. I’m excited to get out and ride this group more and really put it through the paces. Hopefully this group’s durability is as good as it’s functionality has been in the first few months.
As the days grow longer and the trees begin to show signs of new life, racing and outdoor riding will be upon us before we know it. In anticipation of dusting off the helmets and lubing chains, I have put together a short list of some of our newer apparel and accessories to get you rolling outside and feeling the wind in your face again. For a fresh perspective, this list is somewhat specific for the lady cyclists out there, an often overlooked demographic. However, bear in mind that all of the items in this list are either unisex or available in a men’s equivalent.
Giro’s high end lace up road shoe, the women’s Empire ACC, delivers performance, comfort, and style. Off the bat, this shoe comes in as one of the lightest road shoes (215 grams) available specifically for women. The Easton EC90 carbon sole is stiff and responsive and effectively transfers power to your pedal stroke. The lace up system allows for a nice snug and flexible fit, giving you the ability to tighten and loosen where needed. The sleek upper of the shoe is smooth and simple in design with perforated ventilation and Giro’s logo in a subtle opalescent color. As someone who constantly struggles to keep warm, I enjoy the more minimal ventilation this shoe offers, as opposed to mesh uppers on some shoes. While the material is breathable and perforated for air flow, it prevents the wind from hitting your toes on long descents and brisk spring mornings.
This Italian-made road helmet effortlessly transitions through the seasons, and is incontrovertibly a shop favorite. The KASK Protone boasts sleek aerodynamics, incredible ventilation, and outstanding comfort on nearly every head shape. KASK pays great attention to the finishing details on their helmets, such as the leather chin strap on the Protone which lends itself well to a comfortable and easily adjustable fit. You can rest easily knowing your head is in good hands. Additionally, the Protone comes in a variety of colors to coordinate with any kit or bicycle, though I’m partial to this subtle and classy matte navy blue.
Quality sunglasses can make or break a ride, and Oakley’s new EVZero frame-less sunglasses are first class. These sunglasses are lightweight and comfortable and provide excellent UV protection. The deeper lens increases coverage and the earsocks fit nicely around helmet straps. On sunny days, the darker Prizm Road lens enhances contrast and detail while blocking the rays so you can see easily in bright light. On overcast days or riding on the trails, the Prizm Trail lens increases contrast and excels in changing conditions such as passing cloud cover and riding in and out of the trees. We carry both of these among a selection of other sunglasses in store, so come in to ‘see’ for yourself.
When your ride calls for an emergency layer or you start your ride in cooler weather, the Velocio Women’s Ultralight Vest provides that added protection in a compact package. This vest can be stuffed into a saddle bag or in a jersey pocket and won’t weigh you down. It is a great piece to have on hand when you summit a climb and face chilling winds on the descent. The no-frills design is efficient and effective when you need it the most. The back of the vest features a mesh panel to wick sweat and prevent you from overheating, and the dark blue color goes with everything.
Bib shorts are relatively new territory for many women in cycling, but let me tell you, the comfort of bibs instead of shorts trumps all. All I wear now is bib shorts. The Assos Lady’s T.Laalalai s7 bib short pulls out all the stops to make a high quality bib with a clasp fastener in the front. The fastener facilitates pulling the straps over your head so women can easily use the facilities on a ride without having to wrestle with their kit. Additionally, the chamois is ergonomically shaped for a woman’s body. One of Assos’s best qualities is their use of luxurious fabrics and well-sewn seams strategically placed to avoid any sort of chafing or rubbing. The fabrics they use feel so soft and smooth against the skin, and the cut is flattering on everyone, and I do mean everyone. This bib short can easily transition from cooler weather paired with knee or leg warmers into summer riding.
A great way to get in the spirit of warmer weather riding is to ditch the Merino wool socks and try out these wonderfully soft compression-style socks from Giro. The Giro HRC Team sock is great for everything from casual riding to aggressive racing. It comes in a variety of colors, both flashy and classic, to please any cyclist. I love the 6 inch cuff because it doesn’t fall down into my shoe and leaves some very flattering sock tan lines when I’ve been riding in the sun.
Check out our full inventory of apparel and accessories in store or online and get out there and enjoy the sun!
Review written by Jake Crockett about his 2017 Scott Spark 700 Plus Tuned.
Although I grew up mountain biking, a move to Ohio for school forced me to try road biking, and I’ve long considered road my true cycling love. I was re-introduced to mountain biking four years ago (after an eight year hiatus) and quickly found that my 70mm travel Cannondale simply didn’t cut it for a weekend in Moab. The next spring, I made my first serious mountain bike purchase—a Santa Cruz Tallboy. I’ve loved that bike, and it has taken me on some amazing rides in the Wasatch, down the Whole Enchilada, and on more laps of Zen than I can count.
As I’ve spent more time on that bike (and going over the bars more than I’d like—totally the bike’s fault), I’ve wanted something more—perhaps something in the 150mm range, with somewhat slacker geometry, so that I could tackle some of the sections of Zen (a 4 minute pedal from our condo) that have previously tackled me. Over the last few years, I’ve ridden some great mountain bikes from Yeti, Santa Cruz, Scott, Cannondale, BMC, and others, and thought I knew the direction I wanted to go.
When I asked Ryan for suggestions, he mentioned the newer “plus” bikes—somewhere between a traditional mountain bike and a fat bike. I love my fat bike on the snow and thought a plus bike might be worth a look, but I wasn’t sure about the weight, ride quality, or utility on the trails. I rode the Scott Genius 700 Plus Tuned, and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It was heavier than I wanted, more sluggish than I liked, had a Rock Shox Reverb post (which I’ve never liked), and while the plus platform was great, I wasn’t totally sold. I spent a lot of time looking at longer travel plus offerings when Ryan suggested I try the new Scott Spark Plus.
I have ridden the Scott Spark (not the Plus model), and I liked it a lot, but it was a dedicated cross country bike with aggressive geometry. I mean, the Spark is the bike that the Olympic men’s and women’s champions rode to the gold medal in Rio. It’s a cross country rocket with an impressive history—not exactly the ride anything, anywhere, anytime bike I was looking for.
I spend a lot of time researching purchases and often suffer paralysis by analysis. The same happened with my plus bike search—until I read about the 2017 updates to the Spark, slackening the geometry, redesigning the suspension, improving the handling, and giving the new Spark Plus the ability to tackle just about anything (a 66.9 degree head angle and 130mm travel aren’t the domain of your typical cross country bike). Search for reviews from xc and/or enduro-focused sites that have had a chance to review the Spark Plus, and you’ll see that it is universally highly regarded.
The Spark Plus is so new that most places don’t have them, and nobody has a bike to demo. Ryan has never recommended something that I haven’t ended up loving, so on his recommendation I told him (late on a Tuesday evening) that I wanted my 14th bike purchase at Contender to be the Scott Spark 700 Plus Tuned and that I’d pick it up when I was back in town a week later.
As we were leaving town early the next morning, Ryan texted me saying that the bike was ready for pickup if I wanted to take it with me. It was ready to go, set to my measurements and with my particular requests fulfilled. In other words, it was a very run-of-the-mill experience at Contender: amazing and unlike my customer experience at any other bike shop in the land.
The next morning, I checked the tire pressure and set off for Zen. No heart rate monitor and no power meter (something my road racing background just won’t let me do except on the rarest of occasions), but I wasn’t out to set any records—I just wanted to have a good time and put the bike through its paces.
The Zen trail has a solid initial climb with some technical sections, some rolling climbs and descents, some very technical climbs and descents, sand, dirt, gravel, singletrack, slickrock, ledges, and amazing views. It really has everything you could want, all in a 5.7 mile loop less than a mile from my condo’s front door. I can’t think of a better trail to test the do-it-all capacities of a mountain bike.
The Spark Plus ate the trail up, and I was amazed at how efficiently it climbed, even with the Twinlock lockout left in “trail” mode rather than “climb” mode. I found myself choosing more challenging lines than I have in the past, and I was still cleaning them. I didn’t clean the whole climb (man, would I love to see someone be able to do that), but I cleaned more of it than I ever have. I didn’t set a PR on the climb (and I wasn’t trying to), but I ended up with one of my fastest times on that climb I’ve ever had. The climb alone made the bike and it’s 2.8 inches of Maxxis rubber worth it.
On the descent, I found myself riding down features and/or lines I haven’t in the past. The wider tires combined with the Fox dropper post (every bit as smooth as my Thomson dropper—my all-time favorite) and the slack geometry gave me a level of confidence that I haven’t had on some of the technical features in the past. And when the trail opens up and lets you roll for a bit, the wide rubber ate it up acted as a buffer from some less-than-stellar line choices that on my other bikes would have sent me sailing.
The suspension was more than up to the task. It was smooth yet responsive and never felt overwhelmed by the terrain which is often the case on a “shorter” travel bike on a trail like Zen. The bike wanted more, and it never held me back. For sure I held myself back from time to time, but that’s a testament to my bike handling and not an indictment of the bike. Again, I wasn’t aiming to crush the ride as I was out to have a good time. Without knowing, I still had set personal bests on the descent sections.
Whether going up or down, the XX1 Eagle groupset is just amazing. I love a good groupset, and the Dura Ace 9070 (electronic) on my road bike is incredible. But the Eagle on the Spark is as good as anything I’ve ever tried. I literally stopped a couple of times because I thought the bike wasn’t shifting—it felt easier/harder when I clicked the shifters, but I didn’t feel the shift itself. Sure enough, it was working properly, and it is absolutely flawless. In fact, I like it even better than my Dura Ace—and that’s saying something!
2017 Scott Spark 700 Tuned
New linkage on 2017 Scott Spark
Relaxed head tube
SRAM Eagle 12-Speed Drivetrain
SRAM Eagle 12-Speed Cassette
My training, the holidays, and everything else means that my fitness hits the bottom in December and it is a slow build to be ready “to go” in April. On the Spark’s inaugural journey at the end of December, which I rode with the mindset of just testing the bike out, I rode the loop in my second fastest time ever. Without a couple of minutes of stoppage for photos, I’d have set a personal best on the loop.
In my first week first week with the Spark Plus, I spent nearly 100 miles on it—whether the trails were technical (Zen, jumps on Barrel Trail, and technical sections on Barrel Roll) or flowing (gravel on Green Valley and hero dirt on Sidewinder and the Rim trails), the bike performed flawlessly and I found myself having more fun on a mountain bike than I’ve had since, well, maybe ever.
Is this the best mountain bike ever built? I haven’t ridden them all, but I’ve ridden more than I can count. The design, engineering, suspension, plus-tire platform, and groupset combine to create an amazing machine that I’d feel confident taking on almost any trail anywhere. The engineering will leave you thinking you’re on a longer travel bike, but the efficiency and lightweight (my bike is a large with trail pedals, 2.8” tires, sealant and a dropper post, weighs in right at 27 pounds) will leave you feeling like you’ve upgraded your engine. While more speed with less effort would seem to define efficiency, the Scott Spark 700 Plus Tuned definitely defines fun.
In cycling, there are three contact points a rider has with the bike: the seat, the bars, and the pedals. All three contact points are important, but it is your shoe and pedal interface that has the biggest impact on your overall comfort and performance on the bike. The shoes and pedals are the foundation of a rider’s ability to make power and move the bike forward.
The area where your cleat meets the pedal is quite small. As you pedal and apply force, this small area takes on a tremendous amount of load. If not properly supported under this load, your feet can become easily irritated and uncomfortable. This can be made worse when riding in hot weather as your feet swell even more. No two people’s feet are alike. There are a lot of different shapes and types of feet, requiring you to give time and attention to the proper combination of shoes, insoles, cleats and pedals to keep your feet in comfort as you ride.
When you are pushing 90 RPM for several hours on a small imperfection in your alignment, this is quickly magnified leading to inefficiencies and possibly to injury. A stable foot is the starting point for keeping proper knee and hip alignment lessening the potential for injury. In addition, a stable foot combined with a rigid shoe/pedal platform can mean more energy goes to moving your bike forward. Keeping everything “in line” allows for a better application of force to the pedals and for a more efficient use of your limited energy stores.
With a huge variety of shoes and pedals to purchase, it can be overwhelming to determine what the proper combination should be to maximize your comfort and performance on the bike. To help you in your gear search, we’ve put together a list of tips for choosing shoes and pedals that will keep your feet pedaling happily.
1. Get shoes that fit
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But you would be surprised the number of riders who overlook what goes into a proper fitting shoe. Remember, any slight imperfection will be amplified over the miles you are riding. Shoes should not be too tight as your feet need to have room to swell as the day warms up and the time “on your feet” adds up. At the same time, a shoe that is too loose will result in your feet moving inside the shoes, decreasing stability and efficiency.
Cyclists often experience pressure or “hot spots” on their feet as they ride. To alleviate the chance of this happening, it is important to wear shoes with a good retention mechanism that can be adjusted easily on the fly. Whether ratchets, laces, or Velcro straps, find the retention mechanism that works best for you and can be easily adjusted to keep your feet secure and comfortable. It is also important to buy shoes with room for footbeds or arch support that can also help eliminate pressure points and correct for misalignment to work towards pain free pedaling.
2. Use footbeds to correct alignment
Foootbeds allow for a more precise and secure fit of your cycling shoes, providing proper alignment and tracking which is critical for efficiency and healthy knees. Since everyone’s feet are different, the footbeds that work for one cyclist might not be the best choice for another. The right footbeds should give your feet ample arch support for the huge amount of load your foot carries as you pedal and offer as much or little cushion as you need to keep your foot comfortable over the course of a long ride. Features such as metatarsal bumps will also help with “hot spots”.
3. Get help with your shoe setup
From cleat placement to footbed choice to pedal type and shoe selection, there are a lot of pieces that need to work together to ensure you are pedaling comfortably and maximizing efficiency. While you might be able to feel areas of discomfort as you ride, having an expert view your pedal stroke as you ride can help identify any misalignment or inefficient movements. It is important to have your fit evaluated by a technician who has a thorough understanding of biomechanics and how they relate to cycling. This can help ensure that your fit is optimal and that you are riding as comfortably and as efficiently as possible, while at the same time minimizing the chance of injury.
Here at the shop we have the Contender Biomechanics Fit Studio. We have built a dedicated fit studio utilizing all of the latest technology available. All of our fitters at Contender Bicycles have undergone comprehensive training to understand the human body and the biomechanics of the body on the bicycle. We offer a 1-hour Basic Fit session to cover all the major areas of adjustment necessary to establish a safe and neutral position including cleat, seat, and handlebar adjustment evaluation. The 2-hour Contender Biomechanic Fit combines our fitting principles of the Basic Fit with data acquired through Dartfish’s video analysis software and the CompuTrainer. Feel free to come down to the shop or call for more information.
4. Care for Your Cleats and Pedals
There are lots of great pedals out there. Make sure that you choose a pair that you are comfortable with clicking in and out of the pedal quickly. Certain pedals offer more adjustability and others are easier to for entry and exit. Make sure to focus on what will work the best for you rather than what is the lightest or cheapest. Whatever pedals you choose, it is important to stay on top of cleat wear and tear. Worn out cleats are unsafe. They impede your ability to safely engage/disengage your pedals, and they can cause instability which will put added pressure on your joints and ligaments particularly in your ankle and Achilles, increasing chance of injury.
As the one point of contact that is responsible for powering the bike down the road or trail, this area is of utmost importance to have a successful day on the bike both for comfort and performance. We hope our tips and suggestions for getting the most out of your shoes and pedals will help you find further success in your riding. Come down to the shop or give us a call to discuss our wide selection of pedals and shoes or to schedule a fit session to make sure you are properly aligned for the most comfortable and efficient ride possible. Happy cycling!
Undoubtedly, the winningest road bike of recent years has been the Pinarello Dogma F8. With the current Dogma taking the world’s fastest riders to almost countless Pro Tour podium visits, Pinarello has relentlessly tested and improved their premium model to meet and exceed the demands of such riders as Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins. Each iteration of the Dogma racing bike has taken the approach of applying asymmetry and aerodynamics to the latest carbon fiber construction techniques. For 2017 we see an all new Pinarello, the Dogma F10, bred from the same stock but enriched with the latest in technological advancements that are only available by working hands-on with the most talented engineers and the world’s fastest teams.
Pinarello is ringing in 2017 with the release of their latest road racing weapon the Dogma F10. Following in the footsteps of the now legendary Dogma F8 won’t be easy, but Pinarello is proving that they have plenty of sharp ideas to implement into their newest creation. At Pinarello there is always an emphasis on aerodynamics and asymmetry throughout the frame, and neither of these are allowed to diminish the top-end bike’s exceptional ride quality. The 2017 Pinarello Dogma F10 sees the evolution of the tried-and-true Think Asymetric design philosophy – utilizing larger tubes on the frame’s drive side – with a frame design that subtly transfers power and responsiveness without harshness or discomfort to the rider. With lessons learned from the specialized Bolide Hour Record and TT bikes the F10 gets a dose of next-level aerodynamics with no portion of the frame overlooked in the design process. Noticeable advancements are found from tip-to-tail starting at the front fork. Pinarello dubs the unique dropout shape Fork Flap and transfers their use to the F10 to reduce drag at the bike’s leading end. On the frame’s downtube we find a concave top-section that allows air to flow more smoothly around the downtube, over the water-bottles and past the seat-tube, in turn reducing drag in this crucial area by over 12%. The seat-tube itself is purposely off-center and features a pronounced conical shape in comparison to the F8. This asymmetry and idealized shape build a stiffer structure while removing material and weight from the frame. With each step Pinarello has been able to increase stiffness in the Dogma F10 by 7% and dial down the weight by over 6%, which is impressive considering its predecessor is already one of the most capable race bikes of all time.
Not known to ignore even the smallest details Pinarello has looked to the future to give the Dogma F10 seamless adaptability to any and all mechanical or electronic shifting systems. Internal cable routing is as much a boon to aesthetics as it is to aerodynamics and Pinarello keeps the bike looking clean with integrated guides for sleek performance. Riders opting for use of the new Dura-Ace Di2 groupset are rewarded with ease of access to the interior downtube, called E-Link, for ease of set-up and maintenance. To keep the custom Pinarello seatpost in place is their Twin Force Clamp technology that utilizes two smaller, low-torque screws that reduce risk of over-tightening the all-carbon parts. After much success with the proprietary Toray T1100 carbon, used in the F8, Pinarello has chosen to use this lightweight, resilient and strong material to build the Dogma F10. In doing so they have developed the all-new Pinarello Dogma F10 with intensified responsiveness, focused power transfer, and a superior ride quality that is as perceptible on the first pedal stroke as it is on the last.
2017 is here and with it renewed commitments and new goals to achieve on the bike in the New Year. But, let’s be honest for a moment. No matter how much you love cycling, sometimes it can be a struggle to peel yourself off the couch or out of bed to saddle up for yet another ride. To keep your motivation fresh throughout the year, we at Contender Bicycles have compiled a list of things you can do to mix up your riding and help you stay committed to making 2017 your best year on the bike yet.
Take the Computer Off Your Bike
Far too often people experience “paralysis by analysis” on the bike. There can be too much focus on stats like power, HR, mileage, and what others are posting on Strava. Sometimes you just need to take your computer off your bike and simply enjoy your surroundings while you ride to help you realize why you fell in love with cycling in the first place.
In addition to focusing on the pure enjoyment of cycling, it is also valuable to take the computer off your bike from time to time to know how to gauge your effort based on how you feel as opposed to what the data tells you. It seems each year with bike racing, fewer folks know how to read the race and respond to what is happening on the road because they are too focused on their power profile informing them what level of racer they should be. You can produce all the power in the world, but if you don’t actually know tactics during the heat of a race, it will be hard to progress.
Spending countless hours on the trainer is simply too hard on the central nervous system. Constantly put under the stress of high intensity workouts, your body’s stress levels can become elevated and recovery can prove more difficult. Every year we see people who spend hours and hours on the trainer during cold weather months only to get burned out shortly after the spring cycling season begins, when summer and fall provide the best cycling of the season.
We are not suggesting you give up indoor training completely. Maintaining a level of fitness during winter months is important, but be careful not to overdo it. Spend 1.5 hours or less on the trainer and supplement aerobic work by hiking, snowshoeing, skate skiing, or snow biking. Winter is also a good time to spend some time at the gym working on muscle groups that don’t get used in cycling or tend to weaken throughout the cycling season. For riders wanting to optimize performance, it is imperative to keep these groups active and strong.
Participate in a New Event
There are so many great cycling events and races popping up, and you don’t have to be a racer to enjoy these events. Many you can enter to race or just approach as a fun event for participation. Check out the Utah local Crushar in the Tushar, Giro’s Grinduro in Santa Cruz, or the Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego. To further mix up your riding repertoire, if you have only raced road, try a mountain bike race. See what all the hype is about and try gravel racing, which is becoming more and more popular. If you’ve exhausted the local race circuit, travel to the neighboring state for a different racecourse and new competition. Not only does a new race or event give you a solid deadline to achieve a level of fitness, training for a course you have never experienced before provides a level of “unknown” to further motivate you to get in your training miles.
Take a Cycling Trip to a New Area
New scenery adds a new experience to any bike ride. If you live and ride in the pine and aspen of the Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah, driving down to Southern Utah occasionally to ride amongst the red rock and sandstone will give your eyes new vistas and scenery to soak in as you ride. If it’s in your budget, taking a trip to another state or even another country is an exciting way to add variety and excitement to spending time on two wheels. Consider touring the coasts of New England or experiencing the cobblestones, culture, and architecture of European countries. Skip the tour bus and get to know a new area more intimately in the saddle of a bike.
Try a New Cycling Discipline
Taking on a new type of riding can be a fantastic way to stay fit and motivated, learn new skills, and maybe even discover a hidden talent. From mountain biking, road riding, fixed gear riding, gravel riding, snow biking on fat wheels, BMX, to riding the bike terrain parks for those seeking an adrenaline rush, there are so many ways out there to have fun on two wheels. Forget crushing the competition on every ride, sometimes just the challenge of learning something new is enough to keep a smile on your face and motivated to hop on a bike.
Find the Road Less Traveled in Your Area
It’s easy to fall into the grind of doing the same rides time after time for your workouts. Sometimes this can take a bit of joy out of riding, experiencing the same roads and scenery each day. It’s important to get out of your habit doing the same rides in your area and instead mix things up to keep you fresh and focused on the bike. There are always new places to ride and discover, even around the Wasatch Front. We like getting out and exploring areas like Farmington Canyon or even riding places like Killyon Canyon. These areas may not provide the most exciting terrain but it is still fun to explore.
To quote Robert Frost,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Commute by Bike
Whether commuting to work or opting to bike to the grocery store, coffee shop, or other place of errand, it can be refreshing to ditch your car for a bit and get around town by bike. Not only do you save money at the gas pump and lessen your carbon footprint, you also might find yourself growing a deeper connection to your surroundings and community. It’s also a great way to help you unwind your legs after putting in some serious training miles.
Add Variety Off the Bike
Winter months are not the only time you should look to add variety to your time on the bike (see Limit Your Time on the Trainer above). Mixing up your workouts by spending a little time off the bike, even during peak riding months, is a great way to keep your time on the bike fresh. Taking the occasional break to get involved in another sport like rock climbing, hit a round of golf, or any other outdoor activity that interests you will go a long way in helping you feel fresh on the bike physically, and just as importantly, mentally.
The easy part about new goals each year is setting them. The hard part lies in staying motivated to achieve them throughout the year. Whether you are training to someday win the Tour, trying to get into the best shape of your life, or just want to be able to hang on long enough to enjoy a ride with friends, we hope the tips we have shared will help you stay motivated on the bike for 2017. For further encouragement and motivation or for help outfitting yourself for riding in 2017, feel free to call or visit us down at the shop. It’s our goal to make 2017 your best year on the bike as well. Happy riding!
With so many choices between components, sizing, color, etc., it can be a daunting task to purchase the right bike for someone as a holiday gift. In addition, clothing, helmets, shoes, and other cycling accessories are usually a very personal choice that can be made difficult without knowing the sizing of your gift recipient. To help take some stress out of shopping for your cyclist, here at Contender Bicycles we have prepared a list of cycling gifts from $25 and up that are a safe bet for buying the cycling enthusiast in your life this holiday season.
At first thought, a bike bell might not be something to splurge on, but that is until you have seen and heard the Spurcycle Bell. Made in the USA and guaranteed for life, it has a bell ring that lasts 3x longer than the standard bike bell. You will be able to give notice well in advance of your arrival to prevent any collisions with other cyclists or pedestrians. It can be used with handlebars sizes 22.2 to 31.8mm and looks beautiful with its modern, minimalist design. The Spurcycle Bell is available in two finishes, Raw Metal and Black.
Skratch Labs Feed Zone Books
In order to perform at peak level, cyclists need to make sure they are fueling their bodies with proper nutrition. Instead of processed bars and gels, the Skratch Labs Feed Zone books encourage nutrient and energy packed foods for on and off the bike that will enhance any cyclist’s performance.
The Feed Zone Cookbook is the perfect balance of science and practice, sharing recipes that are big on flavor, use simple ingredients, and will change the way endurance athletes eat. Feed Zone Portables keeps all the most popular elements of The Feed Zone Cookbook and applies them to recipes that are simple, delicious, easy to make, and easy to pack on your next ride. With the success of these two cookbooks with non-athletes and athletes alike, Skratch Labs created their latest cookbook, Feed Zone Table, featuring healthy, simple recipes that encourage family-style eating to help athletes connect with their loved ones.
Fat (Snow) Bike
While not a bike that every cyclist would consider splurging on for their own use, a Fat Bike provides a unique cycling experience that is super fun and sure to hook anyone who enjoys pedaling on two wheels. Compared to road and mountain bikes, Fat Bikes are easy to size people on easy to size people on, making them a safer bet when you want to surprise your cyclist with the perfect bike. A couple of Fat Bikes that we recommend:
Scott Big Jon – With extra-wide knobby tires at low pressures, this bike floats across sand and snow. An all aluminum frame and fork maintain a responsive ride quality. A combination of Shimano SLX and Deore components, with a Race Face crank, comprise the drivetrain while Shimano hydraulic disc brakes take on speed control duties. A set of crazy wide 4.8 inch Jumbo Jim EVO tires give a firm grip on the ground and can be run tubeless. These fatties are mounted to 80mm wide Syncros rims to provide ample stability and use Syncros alloy parts to complete the build.
Cannondale Fat CAAD 1, 2, or 3 – Cannondale makes the Fat CAAD frame with super-short chainstays and fat-bike specific geometry that bless it with a much livelier feel than other bikes in its class. The Cannondale Fat CAADs roll on 4.8 inch wide tires to give traction and control no matter the trail conditions. Low-pressure tires and low-range gearing allow you to float over and ride terrain that would cause your old mountain bike to sink. The Fat CAAD 1 is Cannondale’s premium Fat Bike with Lefty fork with 100mm of travel and SRAM X1 and X01 components. The mid-range Fat CAAD 2 features a rigid fork with Sram X5 and X7 components while the lower priced CAAD 3 feature a rigid for with Shimano Deore components.
Indoor Cycling Trainer
During winter, daylight becomes scarcer and the temperatures drop, making it more difficult to get a ride in outdoors. This does not mean you have to skip your workout, however, if you have an indoor cycling trainer. Trainers allow you to specifically tailor your workouts, increasing or decreasing resistance and providing accurate power measurements. Without coasting or stopping, as you often do on the road, a workout on the trainer can be done at higher intensity for a shorter time.
At Contender Bicycles, we are big fans of the Wahoo Fitness Kickr trainer and also the Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap. The Kickrs will woo you with it’s instant, accurate power measurement and controlled resistance that’s controlled via your iPhone, iPad or any Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Smart) or ANT+ enabled device. The Kickr also supports open third-party software such a Kinomap, Virtual Training, and TrainerRoad. It has a whisper quiet drive and it’s space-saving design features collapsible support arms to make it compact for storage or travel.
All outdoor athletes, not just cyclists, can use a base layer in the Fall and Winter months. Whether cycling, hiking, skate skiing, alpine skiing, or doing any other outdoor sport, a warm, dry base layer is essential to a fun day in the cold weather. Because a base layer is worn beneath a jersey, jacket, or other outer layer, you won’t need to worry as much about buying the wrong look or style as a gift for someone since a base layer is not meant to be seen anyway.
With the rise of enduro and all-mountain biking, a new breed of helmet has emerged. New, full-face helmets offer the best in crash protection, and the Uvex Jakkyl HDE Helmet is a true 2-in-1 helmet. For trail riding, the chin protector easily removes for storage, ventilation, and comfort. The two dials used to connect and disconnect the protector are easy to use, even wearing gloves. Most notable is the Jakkyl’s weight at just 630 grams. Compared to the latest full-face from Giro, the Uvex is over 300 grams lighter. Uvex uses a premium Boa retention system to make micro-adjustments to its sizing. A dial at the back of the helmet pulls or releases the boa wire conveniently and quickly. Buckles are clumsy and don’t allow for easy adjustment, so Uvex uses a unique, sliding connector that requires just one hand to adjust. Available in only two sizes, SM-MD (52-57cm) and LG-XL (56-61cm), this helmet can be easily purchased as a gift and sized to your special mountain biker.
Open U.P. (Unbeaten Path) Gravel Bike
If you’re buying for a seasoned cyclist, they most likely already own a road bike and mountain bike. What they probably lack, however, is the next big thing in biking, a gravel bike. As more riders seek adventure on back roads they are finding the need for better brakes and bigger tires. OPEN Cycles provides both of these and more with their unique Unbeaten Path (U.P.) gravel plus frame and fork. This is a disc-equipped road bike that can be ridden with 650b knobbies or 700c cyclecross tires. With through-axles front and back and consistent disc-rotor sizes the U.P. frame and fork can accept numerous wheel and tire combinations. All the rider has to do is decide where the next ride will be, and install the appropriate wheels and tires, then just saddle up and let the OPEN Cycles U.P. do its job on the chosen terrain. Available in just 4 sizes, the Open U.P. is easy to size. It comes as a frameset only, allowing you to let the recipient to pick out exactly how they want to spec the bike.
For your loved one who lives on two wheels, an electric bike is a no-brainer gift. Not every rider considers buying an electric bike, but once they saddle up and ride, they will wonder how they ever lived without one. Perfect for commuting and running errands around town, electric bikes are convenient, environmentally friendly and loads of fun. For your mountain biker who loves to ride and could use a little assist up the trail to keep up with faster riders, an E-MTB is an excellent gift option. Here are a few of our favorite electric bikes at Contender Bicycles:
Farady E-Bikes – At first glance, a Faraday electric bike looks indistinguishable to a classic city bike. Faraday engineered numerous details to hide its e-bike features, such as a special battery that fits inside the downtube, a sculpted front hub with built-in motor, and a polished aluminum handlebar that houses an LED headlight. Faraday’s elegant design isn’t skin deep, however. Instead of a big, clunky system with a massive motor and a heavy battery, Faraday developed a smaller, efficient system that provides ample pedal assist for up to 25 miles. More importantly, it keeps the bike lightweight and balanced. At sub-40 pounds, a Faraday rides like a normal bike, which is a great thing. Faraday’s ground-up approach to design affords many unique advantages, many of which you’ll notice the second you get on one.
Stromer E-Bikes –Stromer utilizes a quiet, efficient, low maintenance brushless rear-wheel motor, housing the battery in the downtube. This design allows for miles of reliable riding and confident, stable handling. The Stromer ST1 has been a go-to in the Stromer line for years. We’ve seen continued refinement of the bike, and its current state is perfect for commuting and most any on-road riding. Stromer’s powerful batteries allow the ST1 to travel up to 60 miles on a charge. The new Stromer ST2 takes Stromer’s integrated approach to new levels. The ST2 features refined aesthetics, a more powerful motor, a brand-new series of advanced batteries, and a Bluetooth connected digital display that is tied to a user-friendly phone app. Brand new for 2017 is the Stromer ST1X, which blends many of the new technologies found in the ST2, in the classic body of the ST1. While not quite as advanced as the ST2, the Stromer ST1X offers nearly 90 miles of range, a powerful Cyro Drive motor, and the ST2’s top-tube-mounted digital display.
Orbea E-Bikes – If you’re sticking to the city streets, the Orbea Keram Asphalt is your perfect around-town electric bike. The bike houses a Bosch Performance 20-mph motor with a Bosch 400Wh battery. To help you generate power, the bike uses a 9-speed Shimano drivetrain with matching Shimano hydraulic brakes, to help you navigate city traffic with precision and confidence. You can pedal all day throughout the city running errands, knowing the bike’s motor’s pedal assistance will get you safely to any destination. The Orbea Keram pairs the same motor and battery as the Orbea Keram Asphalt with a 10-speed Shimano drivetrain and Orbea’s big-wheeled concept if you’re thinking of using the bike on and off-road. For those riding mainly on the trails, the Orbea Wild 20 uses a more aggressive geometry and a Bosch Performance Line CX motor with Bosch’s top capacity 500Wh battery to give that extra push up the mountain.
Cannondale E-Bikes – For use on the pavement, the Cannondale Contro E-Speed is a great e-bike option. It offers a comfortable, relaxed geometry with low-slung top tube for all riders to find a comfortable position in the saddle. The Bosch Performance 250W drive system is integrated into the bottom-bracket of the frame to directly add power to pedaling. If you’re seeking even more cushion on bumpy roads, the Cannondale Kinneto E-Bike uses a SR Suntour suspension fork and fat commuter tires to dampen out road chatter. Built with male and female specific frames, the Kinneto offers a comfortable, relaxed geometry for everyone. A 9-speed drivetrain consists of Shimano Deore derailleurs and shifters to make being in the right gear very easy. For your mountain biker that needs an extra push up the mountain, consider the Cannondale Moterra E-MTB delivers. As soon as you step on the pedals the Bosch 250W drive unit with 500W battery kicks in to give you a powerful boost. Cannondale has designed the Moterra E-MTB with wide 27.5″x2.8″ tires for superior grip in any type of trail condition. A RockShox Yari fork with 130mm of travel and a rear RockShox Monarch shock with 130mm of travel further help to smooth out the trails.
Blackburn Chamber HV Floor Pump
For your rider to make quick and easy work of filling mountain bike tires, the Blackburn Chamber HV Floor Pump is a great gift. This pump is designed to push more air per stroke, saving energy that might be needed for riding, made possible by using a low 50 PSI/3.4 Bar max pressure. It uses a huge, four-inch gauge so it’s easy to read the pressures in both the PSI and Bar measurements to easily dial into a specific pressure. It works with Presta, Schrader, and Dunlop valves, to swap tires without worrying about swapping pumps to inflate them. Final touches on the Blackburn Chamber HV Floor Pump include a 47-inch hose for extra-long reach, an oversized pump shaft for increased durability, an alloy cap and lever, a conveniently placed hose keeper on the handle for clean storage, and a bottle opener to help your rider celebrate post ride with a drink.
Garmin Edge 1000
In Contender Bicycle’s opinion, the Garmin Edge 1000 is the best Garmin on the market for cycling. As a bonus, through Christmas it is on sale for 25% off! The Garmin Edge 1000 will push your rider’s performance on the bike. In addition, your rider will never get lost with the Edge 1000’s bike specific navigation and mapping. Open street maps are pre-loaded, containing routable roads and paths, elevation, address search and points of interest. The Edge 1000 also has a round-trip feature that lists cycle friendly routes based on the number of miles the rider wants to ride.
With a color touchscreen and brightness that adjusts to light conditions, the Edge 1000 is easy to use. It tracks speed, cadence, and heart rate and if integrated with Shimano Di2, displays the current gear on screen. With a dual-sensing Vector power meter it displays Cycling Dynamics metrics for pedal stroke analysis to improve cadence and power. It also displays incoming calls and texts, receive weather reports, and use social media with the app.
Whether you’re shopping for new rider or for a seasoned professional, at Contender Bicycles we want to help you find the perfect gift that will put a smile on your cyclist’s face and make them want to get out and ride. For questions or concerns related to any of our above suggested cycling gifts or other potential gifts you are thinking of for your cyclist, don’t hesitate to give us a call or visit us at the shop. Happy Holidays from our team here at Contender Bicycles!
Contender Bicycle’s Top Picks for Stocking Stuffers
Hard to believe the year is winding to a close and the Holiday Season is in full throttle! Besides feelings of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, this time of year can also bring stress and anxiety over finding the perfect gifts for the special people in your life. At Contender Bicycles we are no strangers to seeing tired shoppers enter the shop overwhelmed by the inventory of items available to buy for their favorite cyclist. We also know a brand new bike or top-of-the-line wheelset is not in every shopper’s holiday budget. With those things in mind and without further ado, we give you Contender Bicycle’s Top Picks for Stocking Stuffers! Each item is sure to please any cyclist regardless of skill level or discipline, and they won’t break your holiday budget either.
Knog Oi Bike Bell
Typically clunky in both sound and looks, bike bells have never much been an accessory to envy. With its sleek low-profile and specially tuned ring, the Knog Oi Bike Bell is set to make bike bells an object of desire. Throwing away the traditional dome design, Knog created the Oi as a hollow cylinder that simply clamps around the bar. A spring loaded striker built into the mount rings out a chord rather than single note when operated, creating ample sound to warn others of your location without being hard on the eardrums. The Knog Oi is available in two sizes, adjustable to any size handlebar, and uses an integrated cable tidy to keep cables tucked away safely. Produced from alloy, the Knog Oi Bike Bell comes in four finishes: Brushed Aluminum, Brass-Plated, Copper-Plated, and Black.
Giro HRc+ Merino Wool Socks
Often the dryness and temperature of your feet can dictate the fun on your ride. To ensure comfort on the trails and in cooler temperatures, wrap your feet in Giro HRc+ Merino Wool Socks. Using a core spun Meryl Merino wool, these socks provide a soft touch as they insulate your feet from the cold while wicking moisture to their surface for quick evaporation to keep your feet dry. With their gentle compression, the socks promote increased circulation and provide arch support, while the reinforced toe and heel add durability. For added protection, the socks use a high 7” cuff length to protect your ankles as temperatures drop. The Giro HRc + Merino wool socks are available in sizes S – XL in the colors Black/Charcoal, Blue Jewel/Black, Mil Spec/Black, Bright Lime/Black, and Ultraviolet.
Blackburn 2Fer Light
For safety and more confidence riding in low light conditions, an easy-to-use, simple yet reliable bike light is a necessity for every cyclist. With the simple push of a button the Blackburn 2Fer light allows you to switch between a 60 lumen front light and a 20 lumen rear light. The Blackburn 2Fer Light conveniently remembers the last mode you used and turns on in that mode. You get excellent side visibility with a 180 degree bezel to make sure you are safely seen at all angles. The 2Fer light comes with a silicon mounting bracket that fits easily to any handlebar or seatpost, and a USB charging cable to charge the battery. Each light is waterproof, has a three-hour recharge time, and runtime of 5 hours on flashing or 1.5 hours on high.
Tüb Simple Wallet
Recycling, sustainability, rehabilitation of local prisoners, and fashion all intersect in the locally made Tüb Simple Wallet. Contracting with the sewing operation of the rehabilitation program for prisoners at the Utah Sate Prison, Tüb transforms piles of used rubber from bikes, motorcycles, and cars into wallets, bags, and phone cases. The Tüb Simple Wallet fits up to 10 credit cards and uses a bill strap for securing your cash. Each wallet is handmade and no two wallets are alike. Not just a means to carry money, the Simple Wallet also signifies commitment to conservationism, the rehabilitation of prisoners through meaningful work, and support of local craftsmanship.
Contender Bicycles Water Bottle
You can never have too many water bottles, and we think the Contender Bicycles Water Bottle will look extra cheerful with holiday spirit when filled with goodies that any cyclist needs to stay energized on a ride. Stuff a 20oz or 26oz bottle with candy, Skratch Labs Apples + Cinnamon Hot drink mix, Hammer Hazlenut-Chocolate gel for the season, or countless other nutrition items to energize the cyclist in your life. The bottles are BPA free and promised to steal looks out on the roads and trails.
DZ Nuts Chamois Cream
Nothing communicates your complete desire for your serious rider’s well-being on the bike more than gifting them with chamois cream. Yes, it might illicit giggles from others as it is unwrapped and revealed, but any rider who has experienced saddle soreness knows just what a life-saving thing the right chamois cream can be. For female riders, we recommend DZ Nuts Bliss chamois cream with its pre/probiotics complex that reduces the chance of infection and encourages beneficial skin flora growth. For male riders, we recommend DZ Nuts Men’s Pro chamois cream, paraben-free, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial to effectively reduce the chance of infection
Fabric Chamber Tool
Every cyclist venturing far from home should carry with them a reliable multi-tool to be properly prepared should a mechanical happen as they ride. Ideally this tool should be light, compact, easy-to-use, and hold all the essential tools for fixing common bike repairs. The Fabric Chamber Tool checks all of these boxes. It carries 13 tools plus a ratchet in a compact and light weight cylinder so you can easily carry it in your back jersey pocket, saddle bag or hydration pack. The T-bar head and multiple locking grooves on each bit allow you to adjust the length to help provide the perfect amount of reach and torque we you need for any bolt on your bike. Tools included on the Chamber Tool include Hex 2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8, Torx 10/25, PH 1/2, and FH 3/5. The Fabric Chamber Tool also has a unique, sleek design to keep in looking good while getting down to work fixing your bike.
It can be hard to find a nutritious, energy rich bar to keep you fueled on a long ride that does not taste like flavored cardboard. With newly designed flavors and a texture that will go down easy, the PROBAR Fuel is wise choice for riders who don’t want to sacrifice edibility for energy on the bike. It offers fast energy and hydration support while you work on your ride. This gluten-free bar is packed with superfruits and nuts. It’s soft, chewy, rich, and nutritious making it a delicious snack for action packed days on the road or the trails. The bar is balanced with chia seeds to regulate hydration and raw oats for easy to digest energy. The PROBAR Fuel is certified organic by QAI and is also non-GMO project verified. PROBAR Fuel is available in 5 delicious dessert flavors, making them the perfect sweet treat to stuff in your cyclist’s stocking this holiday season.
On and off the bike, keeping your hands warm is necessary for surviving the chill that comes during colder months of the year. The Assos tiburuGlove_evo7 is the perfect lightweight glove for chilly weather where your summer gloves are too sheer and your full winter gloves would leave your hands sweating. Built with a lightly brushed interior for superior comfort and warmth that keeps your hands cozy on cold mornings or during those fall and spring days when you don’t need the warmth of a thicker glove. With it’s cycling specific fit and a low-volume, high-stretch material, the Assos tiburuGlove_evo7 also features gripper palms to keep your hands on your bars as well as a touch screen compatible index finger and thumb to make sure you can stay connected without having to slide your glove off. On or off the bike, these gloves will keep your fingers warm and ready for action.
Contender Bicycles Gift Card
Does your cyclist already have so much gear you’re not sure what is missing? Do your eyes glaze over when he or she talks about the latest cycling gadget they are dying to have? Take the guesswork out of your holiday shopping and purchase a Contender Bicycles Gift Card to make sure your rider gets the exact item they want. Buy the card specifically for a tune-up or just for your rider to buy what they please. The Contender Bicycles Gift card is available with increments from $5 to $500 online, or purchase a custom increment by emailing or calling the shop directly.
For a new rider or for a seasoned professional, a stocking filled with one or all of these items is sure to be appreciated and have your rider itching to get back in the saddle as soon as winter ends. For questions or concerns related to any of our suggested stocking stuffers or other potential gifts you are thinking of for your cyclist, don’t hesitate to give us a call or visit us at the shop. Happy Holidays from our team here at Contender Bicycles!
With both the 3T Exploro and the OPEN U.P. now in stock at the shop, we felt the need to clearly understand the differences between the two. Of course, this is only possible with some serious time on both bikes. After a summer on the OPEN U.P., Peter spent the last few weeks on the 3T Exploro. Check out his take on the 3T Exploro and how it compares to the OPEN U.P.
The 3T Exploro Gravel Plus aero road bike has a lot of descriptors for one bike which begs the question “well, what is it for?” According to 3T – the venerable Italian parts manufacturer – the Exploro frameset is built so you can “Go Slow Faster,” and it does just that. The concept of gravel road bikes has been well covered in the last few years, with nearly every bike brand launching some new do-everything bike. While most of these are fully capable of mixed road riding, few maintain the feel of a performance road bike. We’ve come to learn that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, but done right, a large volume road tire can be a blast to ride.
3T takes a different approach than most. By using Gerard Vroomen’s Gravel Plus technology, the Exploro accepts a range of tire options, up to a 40mm wide cyclocross tire on 700c rims. Because of the frame’s geometry the Exploro maintains a “normal” road bike feel, meaning it’s not sluggish on pavement like some all-road bikes. Actually, it is the opposite. Outfitted with 35mm tires, our Exploro feels fast…race bike fast. Adding to the race bike feel is the frames incredible stiffness. Power transfer is seamless, and cornering is crisp. It really feels like a race bike, that happens to be able to run bigger tires.
Back to the original question – “what is it for?” The whole point behind this bike is that it isn’t for any one type of riding. It’s meant to ride like a road bike on the road. With bigger tires, it can make singletrack and drop bars into good times. And dirt or gravel roads? Heck yeah it does that too. The whole speed component doesn’t necessarily mean much for some rides, but there are a growing number of competitive gravel rides across the US and the Exploro is perfect for them. We’d expect to see a handful of these out at races like the Dirty Kanza and Crusher in the Tushar.
When someone brings up the 3T Exploro, the conversation always includes another bike designed for this “mixed-use” called the OPEN U.P. They have a lot of similarities. Both companies are co-owned and heavily influenced by Cervelo founder Gerard Vroomen. Both fit a wide range of tires and run the 3T fork up front. Having built both of these bikes up with almost exactly the same kit, we have had opportunity to ride both in a variety of conditions. With subtle tweaks in design and in intended use, we were curious to see just how these two Gravel Plus bikes compare.
On pavement, the Exploro is fast and responsive. Handling and power transfer feels a lot like the Cervelo S-series aero bikes that Vroomen developed years ago. Shorter chainstays than the OPEN result in a slightly stiffer rear-end and more nimble road feel. The aero tube shaping is great for speed (and let’s face it, it looks really cool) but often aero tube profiles can translate into a harsh ride. Compared to the OPEN, the 3T did transmit a bit more road buzz through the frame, but it didn’t feel overly harsh. We’d expect the majority of the compliance (or lack of harshness) to come from the larger volume tires and lower tire pressure, which might make it the perfect platform to use aero tubing. Regardless of the aero benefits, the Exploro is a blast to ride at high speed on road and dirt. On the other hand, the OPEN offers a longer wheelbase, a damper ride and more stability. These characteristics make this bike ideal for rougher surfaces and rides where the dirt might outlast the pavement.
Both the 3T Exploro and the OPEN U.P. have variations of road geometry, which places the bottom-bracket slightly lower than what is typically found on cyclocross bikes. Doing so creates a nice, stable ride both off and on road. The OPEN seems to have more of a stable mountain-bike feel when riding off road, especially on more technical sections of trail. Enough so that we were left wanting even more time on the dirt. Given OPEN’s lightweight cross country mountain bike pedigree, this is no surprise. While it is a blast to ride off road, it is at home with some of the best road bikes out there. We have seen several riders ditch their road bikes in favor of the U.P. as their everyday road bike. While the Exploro is a bit newer to us, we definitely feel this bike combines versatility with performance characteristics of the top-level of road racing bikes.
Choosing between the Open U.P. and the 3T Exploro is tough. There’s a lot of overlap and either will take you farther than most bikes out there. We heard someone describe the difference as “the OPEN is a mountain bike for the road, and the 3T is a road bike for the dirt.” Given the handling differences, this is a great way to put it. The 3T fits a huge range of tires to provide traction and compliance when needed. It handles race-bike fast and offers a sense of power-transfer that makes you want to go fast wherever you’re riding. The OPEN fits the same range of tires and has an even smoother ride. It handles more like an endurance bike featuring a taller cockpit and extra stability. These go-all-day traits are noticeable on road and shine off road. If you’re a roadie and want a road bike, take the 3T. If you don’t mind losing a bit of the Formula-One-esque handling in favor of better off-road characteristics, choose the OPEN. Both are awesome and have the versatility to take you from road to dirt and back to road on the same bike.
While I haven’t pedaled either the 3T or the OPEN with the widest possible tire (2 inch knobbies) to see how they handle straight-up mountain riding, I can say that the 3T Exploro will easily change how and where you ride on the road. It is your road bike, your workhorse trainer for winter and a hard-charging gravel grinder.
Take a 3T Exploro or OPEN UP out on a test ride and experience the road and trail in a whole new light. Email Peter at email@example.com to discuss which frame is right for you and how to custom spec out your bike. Additionally, we created a Contender Bicycles stock build for both the 3T Exploro and OPEN UP to give you a starting point to customize your ride.
Need to make room for all the new riding garb you’re gonna rake in for the Holidays? Want your used cycling gear to get in the hands of folks (fellow riders) that will truly appreciate it? ‘Tis the season for giving! This is our third year of teaming up with Kit Up Africa, a nonprofit that delivers donated cycling clothing, gear and shoes to cyclists in Africa who love to ride just as much as we do. Last year we donated hundreds of pounds of cycling clothing contributing to Kit Up Africa sending over 2000 kits to Africa. This included kitting up a Botswana national champions and scores of kids.
This year we are trying to rally everyone early! For Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, donate a piece of used cycling gear and get 30% a matching piece – so donate a jersey, get 30% off a new one. Need a new jacket? Donate your old one and it’s 30% off the shiny new one you’ve been eyeing since October. The same goes for shoes, bibs, gloves, hats, etc – anything you think is donation worthy. For the entire month of December we will continue to support Kit Up Africa in the same way however the percentage off a matching piece goes down to 20%.
So clean out your closet and help us Kit Up Africa!
The bike that sold us on Plus hardtails is now offered with more options for 2017. The Scott Scale Plus offers plus tire confidence and stability in a lightweight, great handling package. All Scale Plus models share the same premium alloy frame, allowing for sub-25lb complete bike weights. We’ve brought in several of the top-end Scott Scale 710 Plus bikes to keep as demos at the shop, and have been getting out on them as much as the weather allows.
While the 2016 Scale Plus was a new platform in Scott’s mountain bike line-up, Scott redesigned the 2017 Scale Plus to be even more fun out on the trail, and make better use of its 2.8 inch-wide tires. The new geometry features a slacker headtube, shorter chainstays, and longer top-tube. These tweaks mimic changes seen on the brand-new Scott Spark, and increase high-speed stability while allowing for more nimble handling.
Our early tests show the Scott Scale 710 Plus maintains its hero-level grip for awesome climbing on loose trails, while roaring down technical descents with even greater confidence. Our 710 Plus came stock with the new, 2017 Fox Float 32 fork (with 120mm travel), a Sram GX1 1×11 drivetrain, and tubeless wheels and tires that we ran down to 10 psi. At this tire pressure, traction and stability are unreal, especially mid-summer, when our trails turn to moondust. Scott completes the trail-worthy build with a Syncros dropper post that, so far, has been trouble free.
While we won’t claim a plus hardtail matches the compliance or descending control of a full-suspension rig, they’re great for shorter singletrack rides, and offer a new level of fun on the dirt. For more information on the Scott Scale Plus, or our other Plus hardtails (including Moots Farwell, OPEN One+, Orbea Loki, and Cannondale Beast of the East), please give us a call or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our annual “Show Us Your Favorite Ride” photo contest is in the books. We were overwhelmed by the submissions, and want to thank everyone who contributed. Judging by the your photos, it’s been a great season of riding, and we hope next season will be even better! It was tough to choose just one, but this photo from Ellyn is just too dramatic to pass up. Moab is an impressive backdrop, and stormy skies only add to the beauty. Congrats to Ellyn – swing by to pick up your $50 gift card!
These are just a few of the great photos we received for the photo contest. We wish we could share them all but we have over 100 photos! If you haven’t picked up your free t-shirt please swing by the shop and pick it up while supplies last.