We just returned from a week at Press Camp in Park City, Utah, where several companies announced new stuff for model year 2017. Cannondale, GT, Blue, Ridley and component maker 3T all trotted out fresh bikes at the event for industry journalists to check out.
Full disclosure, Press Camp is not a standard bike industry event, which often involves camping or at least staying in a sub-par hotel with questionable sheets and discolored bath water. Press Camp is held at a swanky ski resort with very crisp white sheets and fabulous meals. But that won’t stop me from saying I think some of these bikes are more technical exercise and designer fantasy than anything else. Some are very practical while others are just plain neat-o.
Stay tuned for coverage of new soft goods, gear and gadgets that we also saw at Press Camp.
3T Exploro Aero Gravel
The 3T Exploro Aero Gravel bike was one of the most talked-about bikes at Press Camp, partly because it’s 3T’s first foray into frame design and partly because it looks wild with square carbon tubes and mountain tires. In a nutshell, it’s a bike with road-ish geometry and clearance for 27.5 knobbies. Or, as I kept thinking, a hardcore roadie’s gravel grinder. Or a serious gravel racer for contenders. Or an n+1 for people with equal (significant) amounts of money and curiosity.
3T emphasized that the geometry of this bike means it will ride almost the same with 700 x 28 mm tires as it will with 27.5 x 2.1-inch tires. It has a 415 mm chainstay, 50 mm rake, 70 mm bottom bracket drop, 72.5 mm seatube angle and, depending on size (small through extra-large) a headtube angle of 69.5 mm to 72.5 mm and a headtube length of 100.6 mm to 180 mm.
The company actually put this thing in a wind tunnel with two water bottles and a coating of fake, 3D-printed mud. The fan was set to 20 mph for more realistic conditions (rather than the standard 30 mph), and what resulted was a frame claimed to go faster with 40 mm knobby tires than will a round-tubed frame with 28 mm road slicks. And that’s why it’s called an “aero gravel bike.”
The Exploro will be sold at two levels as a frameset, only. The Limited (pictured) frame weighs 950 grams and retails for a whopping $4,200, while a white and red “Team” frame will sell for $3,000. Does this bike solve a non-existent problem, or is it the natural evolution of frame technology and the ever-expansion of bicycle versatility? That’s up to you, consumer.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the far-less-expensive Cannondale Quick, a line of practical commuter bikes that will be updated for 2017. With its Quick, the company is seeking to target a younger demographic of riders that is mostly focused on fitness and outings such as weekend bike path rides.
The new Quick bikes will each feature a 55 mm fork offset, more upright position and a slacker head angle than previous models for a more stable ride. Quicks will come with rack and fender mounts, reflective graphics, the same road vibration-absorbing rear triangle design as Cannondale’s high-end road bikes, puncture-resistant tires and the option for an integrated kickstand ($30).
Eight Quick models for women and eight for men will be available, including three in each line with disc brakes. Prices will range from $400-$1,300.
Cannondale is adding a new Slate to its lineup of quirky 650b gravel bikes: two models with rigid forks and Apex one-by build kits (one for men and one for women; women’s model is pictured). The Solo Rigid fork allows the price of this Slate to drop below $2,000 while keeping the same geometry and road-chatter-absorbing rear triangle design.
The rigid Lefty-like fork makes this much more of a traditional gravel bike, just one that is designed around 650b x 42 mm tires. This women’s version is no different other than a brown-and-pink paint job and different “touch points” more specific to some women—saddle, bar width and the like. It will come in two sizes (small and medium).
To answer the question some have asked: this bike does not have front fender/rack mounts.
Blue Prosecco PRO EX and AL
Blue Bicycles, formerly based in Georgia and now in California, struggled for a few years despite the success of its triathlon and cyclocross bikes. Now, the company is spooling up again and significantly expanding its line, adding mountain bikes and gravel bikes for 2017.
At the top of its new gravel line sits the Prosecco PRO EX, a $2,700 carbon bike with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and room for up to 700 x 42 mm tires. Yes, that sub-$3,000 MSRP is accurate.
The frame is Blue’s own design. The company was striving for comfort with an adventure/trekking perspective. The bike has seastays designed for damping, a tall headtube, bento box mounts, thru axles front and rear, house-built wheels and internal cable routing.
The Prosecco AL aluminum version (pictured above) with a slightly less fancy frame design, Shimano 105 components and mechanical disc brakes will retail for $1,090. A carbon model with non-electronic Ultegra will be available between the two price points.
Ridley Helium SLA
Ridley bikes is better known as a performance brand and, true to style, did not have a new gravel grinder or touring bike on display at Press Camp. I almost didn’t go check them out but was drawn in by its new road bike, the Helium SLA, the company’s first new aluminum frame in five years.
The Helium SLA comes with a carbon fork and Shimano Ultegra for $1,900. The bike pictured is an extra-extra small and weighs about 17 pounds. A Shimano 105 model will weigh one pound more and retail for $1,500. All frames feature smoother, double-pass welding and internal cable routing. Sizes will range from XXS to XL.
This bike has nothing to do with anything other than it’s rad. The GT Performer is a complete replica of a 1986 BMX bike, but with a long-enough seatpost and 26-inch wheels to facilitate cruising about town. It’s the bike you rode as a kid (or lusted after) now in an adult-friendly size. For $560, GT might just have your new bar bike.
I was stopped on the side of the bike path, topping off a slightly underinflated tire.
“Hey nice bike. What’s that extra tube for? Must be heavy duty or somethin’. Is it for extra weight?”
The tube in question is the twin top tube on this here Kona Humuhumu. A retro/cruiser/mountainous/classic/singlespeed/bar-hopping/klunkish/commuter. Why is the extra tube there? Because it can. Why does this bike exist? Because fun. #becausebikes
Note: Leopard print saddlebag and pink Klean Kanteen not included.
The Humu has been in Kona’s line since 1992 and was loosely inspired by the legendary Lawwill Pro Cruiser and Koski Trailmaster. More of a giant BMX bike than an upgraded klunker, the original Humu wasn’t meant to be a hard-edged trail tamer, but rather a less expensive way for fans to fly the Kona flag while getting to class, cruising the neighborhood or generally causing a ruckus wherever they went.
The current iteration was inspired by a custom build and sports the same classic layout, 4130 steel tubing, moto-style handlebars and let’s-go attitude of the original, but updates it with disc brakes, 29-inch wheels and sliding dropouts.
Unlike a lot of cruisers, the Humu is available in three sizes so everyone can join in the fun. The Schwalbe Big Apple tires measure a massive 2 inches wide so the ride is magic carpet smooth. The rear hub is nearly silent too, letting you roll in stealthy silence. It’s available in orange or lime for $899.
So far I’ve had a blast hopping curbs, blasting through alleys and riding like a hooligan. I’m guessing that’s exactly what Kona was going for.
Watch for my long-term review of the Humuhumu in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe today and help support your independent voice for cycling.
Dutch city bikes are well known for their pleasing ratio of practicality to style. The Peace Bicycles Dreamer keeps that rule intact with this fully featured ride. Peace Bicycles was founded to bring an affordable, stylish and well-equipped alternative to a market that is still chock full of fixies and expensive boutique models.
Don’t let the price fool you, this bike looks expensive and was admired by a wide range of the population as I made my way around town. It is classy and understated, but still stands out. The Dreamer is a turn-key commuter, including most of what is often an add-on sale: kickstand, fenders, chain guard, front and rear LED lights, skirt guard and a rear rack with spring clamp. The chain guard is a particular standout, offering a lot more protection than what’s available on most bikes with derailleurs.
A basic 7-speed Shimano drivetrain has a decent range, though I wouldn’t mind an easier gear for the hills. This wouldn’t be hard to modify, but I’m guessing most riders in flat to moderately hilly cities will be fine as-is. The rest of the parts performed just fine for a city bike. The saddle not only looks good, but offers much better support than most saddles of this type.
The riding position is upright, and anyone taller than 6 feet is going to feel pretty cramped on the single size, but Peace plans to offer more sizes in the near future. A longer stem would be an easy swap to open up the cockpit for taller riders.
The real star of the show here is the ride quality of this bike. I’ve ridden a few Dutch-style bikes, and they are often heavy and clunky. The Dreamer’s steel frame and high-quality Schwalbe Fat Frank tires provide a much more refined ride quality than I expected. The tires smooth out the ride but still roll much faster than they look. The color and reflective sidewall stripes are icing on the cake. It doesn’t hurt that the Dreamer is lighter than it looks too. It helps to not cut corners, and using aluminum components keeps the weight reasonable.
The battery-operated LED lights are perfectly functional, although they aren’t terribly bright. For busy nights out on the town, I added extra lights for more visibility. One of the bungees for the skirt guard pulled out of its hook, but there are plenty left to keep skirts out of the spokes.
Part of Peace’s mission reads: “When we were young, the bike was always an escape, a sense of hope and opportunity, and that’s something that we wanted to personally pass on to as many people in need as possible.” To that end, Peace donates a portion of its profits to local bike co-ops to help offset the cost of a bicycle for a rider in need.
Currently, Peace ships Dreamers directly to consumers who are savvy enough to assemble the bike themselves, or to a bike shop for professional assembly. Although the tool set included with the Dreamer is more than adequate for assembly, I’d recommend professional assembly for all but the most experienced mechanics—the build process is far from easy. Peace is now working on an option for delivering bikes 90 percent assembled and plans to add a few more sizes to the range.
Having a bike like this kept in a handy place ups the odds that the car will stay parked and the bike get used more often. With an attitude and riding position that feels natural and relaxed, the Dreamer matches up perfectly with quick trips to the store, a night on the town or a short commute to work.
Shinola—of the famous “You don’t know shit from Shinola” catchphrase—was a shoe polish brand founded in New York in 1907, gained fame in World War II, then went out of business in 1960. Relaunched in Detroit in 2011 by a Texas investment company that bought the name rights, the new Shinola began its second life as a fine watchmaking company, then expanded to bicycles in late 2012. It now employs more than 400 people in a city still struggling to find its footing following the crumbling of the auto industry, a mass population exodus and a recent bankruptcy.
That old saying still applies: Shinola product is anything but crap. Its three bicycle models are meticulously designed, American-made and have price tags befitting the finer things in life. If you’re more inclined to bust your knuckles fixing up a Craigslist find, this is not the bike for you. If you’re willing to pay for subtle, classy, lasting quality, read on.
Bike industry veteran Sky Yaeger—formerly of Swobo, Spot, Bianchi and Suntour—leads the design of Shinola’s bicycles. Yaeger is the real deal, a true pioneer with more than 30 years of experience in the bicycle industry. At Shinola, she is proudly focused on things like weld integrity, custom dropouts, proprietary cast fork crowns and stamped chainstay plates.
Shinola’s frames are handmade at Waterford Precision Cycles in Waterford, Wisconsin, from U.S.-made True Temper double-butted 4130 chromoly, and assembled at the Shinola flagship retail store in Detroit. That is a big part of what you’re paying for. It’s easy to balk at the $1,000 price tag of the singlespeed Detroit Arrow, but you also can’t find too many off-the-rack, American-made bikes at that price. Shinola is arguably helping to put a little spirit back into an industry that readily offshored itself and no longer gives much love to the “Made in USA” sticker.
On the road, the 26-pound Arrow feels much lighter than I expected for a sturdy, steel townie. It is markedly smooth-rolling and quiet—I would describe the ride feel as “gliding.” The upright position lends an air of casualness to cruising about town. With only one gear, riding this bike involved plenty of climbing out of the saddle. The swept-back bars aided those efforts, as did the bike’s well-mannered stability.
While the Arrow’s intent is to be a throw-your-leg-over-it-and-go bike—reminiscent of whatever simple, two-wheeled transport you had as a kid—it is practically designed for those who want a singlespeed even in a hilly, urban environment. The Arrow not only climbs well, but is also fun and maneuverable when it picks up speed on the return descent.
The Arrow runs 38×18 gearing and is equipped with a basic, all-black build kit, leather Shinola saddle, custom chain guard, Tektro caliper brakes, cork grips, silver bell, steel fenders and 700×32 Continental Contact Reflex puncture-resistant tires. It comes in either black or white, and the frame features rack mounts for extended practicality. You can choose a step-through model or a traditional, straight top tube frame.
I did question the use of bolt-on axles (a nemesis of mine) rather than quick releases. Yaeger responded this way: “On city bikes, I have always used nutted axles on the rear and a lockable quick release on the front as one more deterrent if you just leave your bike for a few minutes and [don’t] lock the front wheel. Also, there is no learning curve to a bolt, compared to a quick release, which poses a challenge to beginning cyclists.”
Is it worth spending this kind of money for a bicycle with only one gear? Only you can decide that. My mom’s sister-in-law likes to say that there should be a few items in life you’re willing to spend good money for lasting quality because you will use them daily. For her, it’s eyeglasses, shoes and coats. For you, it might be your bike. The Arrow doesn’t give you the most bang-for-your-buck, but statement pieces rarely do.
- Sizes: Traditional: 53, 55, 57, 61 cm. step-through: 47 (tested), 51 cm
- Weight: 26 pounds
- Price: $1,000
- More info: Shinola Detroit Arrow