I like to beautify and customize my bicycles almost as much as I like to ride them, which is why I’ve had my eye on Continental’s Retro RIDE tires for a few years. They’re relatively inexpensive, have a bit of tread for light gravel cruising and are simply stunning on a bike frame resplendent in purple sparkle paint. When I acquired my Bridgestone MB-3 and discovered the existing tires had disintegrating sidewalls, I had finally found an opportunity to try a pair of Retro RIDEs.
The Retro RIDEs are cruiser-style tires that are higher quality than run-of-the-mill beach cruiser rubber selling for a few bucks at big box stores. They feature puncture protection under the tread and reinforced sidewalls. That tread, which is modeled after Conti KKS 10 moto tires, has just enough grip for casual gravel and smooth dirt cruising without slowing you down. At least, what I believe is really slowing me down is the weight of early 1990s steel and a winter spent not exactly staying in shape.
The ride is very comfortable on multiple surfaces. Each tire’s pressure range is narrow, just 45-58 PSI. But as owners of fat bikes well know, just a few PSI makes all the difference. Fully filled, the tires roll fast and smooth, and corner confidently on pavement. On the lower end of the range, the tires offer a bit of extra bite and cushion on rougher surfaces, though lower pressures make the tires bouncy when you return to smooth roads.
The reflective sidewall is a nice touch. These are wire bead tires, which keeps the price down but also means they can be a beast to mount. After puncturing one, I broke two tire levers and took a chunk out of a knuckle trying to get it off. I finally had to give up and take it to a bike shop, where I was reminded that some tires just don’t mate well with some wheels.
If you happen to mount Retro RIDEs to early-90s Ritchey mountain bike rims, you might need Herculean strength to get them off. Despite the struggle, I feel strangely trusting of these tires and still might attempt some light and local touring on the setup you see pictured.
There are certainly more practical tire options out there but, of course, the real benefit of these tires are their impeccable good looks and class. Retro RIDE tires also come in black and a reddish-brown color, in addition to cream. They are primarily available for 26- and 28-inch wheels in widths of 2.0 and 2.2 inches, weighing between 865 and 950 grams, each (for the 26-inch versions). There are a few 700 x 5o/55 mm versions lingering on the interwebs, as well. You can find these tires online for $22 apiece, give or take a few bucks.
More info: Continental Retro RIDE
Hot on the heels of its 650b Road Plus announcement, WTB says it will expand its line of 700c tires for all kinds of roads.
The new Exposure tire with its new, multilayer casing brings WTB’s excellent TCS tubeless technology to a road size. Available in 30c with a slick tread or 34c with cornering knobs, it’s ideal for road bikes that aren’t afraid to get a little dirty. WTB claims a weight of 345 grams or 370 grams. It will retail for $80.
If your idea of a “road” is something most folks would be afraid to drive on, the new Riddler tires take the tread pattern that first debuted on WTB’s 27.5 mountain bike tires and applies it to 700c. The idea is that the closely spaced center knobs roll as quickly as a file tread, but the full-sized cornering knobs still offer all the bit of a mountain bike tire. It will be available in 37c and 45c with the TCS Light casing for $55 and in a big 29×2.25 version for $68. It looks like a great choice for gravel racing and bikepacking.
Frostbike is an annual dealer gathering hosted by Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the parent company behind several brands such as All City, Foundry, Salsa, Surly and others. The event takes place at QBP headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late February and allows shop owners and media types to gather, drink beer and talk shop.
With the Taipei International Cycle Show and Sea Otter looming, not to mention the countless company-specific product launch events now usurping big trade shows, there was not a glut of new product to be explored. Here are some of the new and noteworthy products we stumbled upon.
Garmin Varia Rearview Radar
$200 (rear monitor/light, only), $300 (rear monitor/light and head unit indicator)
Garmin has so much bike stuff going on that, according to its brochure, you can conceivably hang up to 10 bits of the company’s electronics on your bicycle, from cameras to power meters to remote controls for some of the other items. The highlight of the show was Garmin’s wireless Varia Rearview Radar. The two-piece setup includes a radar device/light for your seatpost and a small indicator for your stem or bars.
The radar can detect vehicles up to 153 yards away and—either on the indicator, or on your existing Garmin Edge computer—will display up to 8 vehicles (or anything moving faster than you), how close each is to your rear tire and how fast they are approaching. The 16-lumen tail light brightens when it detects an oncoming vehicle. Each individual unit has a lifespan of five hours per charge in high power mode. The bundle weighs 3.2 ounces.
Garmin Varia Smart Bike Lights
$200 (headlight), $70 (one tail light), $300 (headlight, one tail light and remote control)
If you already own a Gamin Edge computer, the smart lights might be your next step. Depending on which Edge model you own, the Varia smart lights will automatically adjust to changing light conditions and your speed. The front light will focus farther down the road as you ride faster while the tail light will shine the brightest if you’re rapidly slowing down.
Set yourself up with two tail lights and a handlebar-mounted remote control and—voila—your bicycle has turn signals.
Garmin Varia Vision In-sight Display – $400
If looking down isn’t your thing, turn your sunglasses into a heads-up display. Weighing just 1.1 ounces, the Varia Vision In-sight Display will show directions, performance data, trip information, incoming phone calls and text messages and vehicles approaching from behind, depending on which myriad of devices you pair it with. You can also set it to vibrate to alert you to any of that stuff. The device and its various screens are controlled by a touch panel that is intended work with gloves. A charge should last you eight hours. No word yet on what your ride buddies will think.
Rever mtb1 and mcx1 disc brakes
mtn1 – $164.99 (complete kit for one wheel), mcx1 – $149 (complete kit for one wheel)
Rever’s mechanical disc brakes are not brand-new, but they were updated for Frostbike to include calipers designed for Shimano’s flat-mount standard in the case of the mcx1 drop-bar model. We simply like the idea of high-end mechanical disc brakes that are designed to be easy to service. Why? If you’re riding in extremely cold temperatures, extra-grimy conditions, foreign countries or doing long-distance bikepacking, hydraulic disc brakes might be more fuss and trouble than they’re worth.
Rever’s brakes feature dual-piston design for better adjustment, stopping power, modulation and easy installment. The brake pads can be swapped without removing the wheels or disconnecting the cables. Each kit has everything you need to set up one wheel, including 160 mm brake rotors for both road and mountain.
Teravail Lickskillet – $65 (60 TPI), $85 (120 TPI/Premium)
Teravail is a new tire brand from QBP focused on all-road and gravel tires with understated graphics. New to the lineup is the 700c Lickskillet all-road tire in 28c or 32c. It’s tubeless compatible and features grooves specifically designed for grip and water dispersement. The 60 TPI version features flat protection under the tread while the 120 TPI model takes that protection from bead to bead. The 700×32 version can be run with as little as 45 PSI.
The tire is named for the infamous Lickskillet road near Boulder, Colorado. While only one mile long, the dirt road’s average grade is 14 percent with a max grade of 18 percent, and it tops out at over 8,000 feet. The Lickskillet 28c weighs 270 grams; the 32c weighs 350 grams. The Premium version of each, featuring that extra flat protection, weighs 5 grams more.
iSSi Flip Pedal – $75
The new iSSi pedal is a party on one side and business on the other—you choose which is which. The Flip is both clipless and platform with adjustable spring tension, SPD cleats and 4 degrees of float. As with all iSSi pedals, you can swap out the spindles to customize your Q-factor with one of three spindle lengths. Available soon in six colors.
Portland Design Works (PDW) Bindle Rack – price unknown (about $100)
PDW’s lightweight aluminum Bindle Rack was previewed at Interbike but as of March 1 is still not available. The clever Bindle is designed to support a rear dry bag, tent bag or similar via a seatpost clamp and seat rail cinch straps that keep items from drooping onto your rear tire or legs. Integrated compression straps hold your gear snugly. The whole thing allows you to forego a rear rack or a dedicated bikepacking saddle bag that might be too restrictive for your needs.
Bont Vaypor + – $400 (estimated)
Bont’s high-end Vaypor + road shoe was designed particularly for all-day comfort with a soft Kangaroo leather upper, one-piece carbon chassis, memory foam padding and a BOA retention system. The entire sole of the shoe is heat moldable for a custom fit. The shoes feature ventilation holes across the tongue, along the top of the forefoot, and through the front bumper and arch area of the shoe. The Vaypor + weighs 230 grams and has a stack height of just 3.6 mm. New colors include brown, orange and blue in addition to black and white. A custom color program is available but will push the price of these kicks over $500.
Lezyne Steel Travel Floor Drive pump – $60
Small apartments, cramped cubicles, backseats of cars, bike bags. There are plenty of tight spaces where you might want to stash a floor pump. Lezyne has you covered with its streamlined, machined aluminum Travel Floor Drive that lays flat. It weighs 2.4 pounds, maxes out at 160 PSI and works on Presta, Schrader and Dunlop valves.
Surly Straggle-Check Bag – $170
Surly Bikes dropped a new frame bag specifically for its Cross Check and Straggler models, but it will probably work with other bikes, too, considering the triangle frame design is rather ubiquitous. The bag is made of Polyant VX sail cloth by Revelate Designs and features a hydration port, foam bumpers to protect the frame paint and a large main compartment with a map pocket.
Velo Orange Mojave Cage – $28
The stainless steel Mojave Cage isn’t brand-new; it’s simply a nifty idea. The cage features five holes on the mounting tab and is designed to carry a 40 oz Kleen Kanteen or 32 ounce Nalgene bottle. Since 16 ounces of water weighs just a hair over one pound, using one of these to carry your designer bottle of cucumber water to work takes a couple of pounds off your back. It also means you can haul more water on tour, which was the inspiration for the design and the name.
Revelate Designs Terrapin – $90 (holster), $38 (drybag)
The Terrapin is one of Revelate’s big seatpost bags for bikepacking. The Terrapin support holster was updated for 2016 and is now RF (radio frequency) welded to be completely waterproof.
The Terrapin Drybag also gets RF welding and an air purge valve for simple compression. It is also now made of 210 denier mini diamond ripstop fabric to be more durable and available in more colors, including red. Together, the pair weighs 19 ounces.
Also new from Revelate is a limited edition white camo color on all of its frame bags that will appear in bike shops soon.
We also previewed new and updated bicycles from Frostbike. If you missed that, find them here.
WTB is unveiling a new 650b tire: the Horizon 650 x 47 mm Road Plus with WTB’s Tubeless Compatible System (TCS). The tire offers the same overall diameter as a 700 x 30 mm road tire and is intended to be used for endurance road and gravel rides.
“At the same overall diameter as current endurance road bikes, the geometry remains unchanged – bottom bracket height, axle to crown, relative angles, all stay the same,” stated Chris Feucht, WTB’s manager of new product development. “Only additional chain stay clearance may be needed, though quite a lot of existing bikes on the market already clear this size.”
The new tires feature WTB’s lightweight casing and Dual DNA Rubber Compound with pre-production sample weights of 515g. The Horizon 650 x 47c Road Plus TCS tire will retail for $67.95 USD with a projected availability of June 2016.
WTB has compiled a list of currently compatible frames.
There’s a lot of history spun up in these tires. With a tread design crafted by Joe Murray decades ago, the Rock N Road has been recapturing interest with the resurgence of gravel and mixed-surface adventure riding.
When framebuilder Bruce Gordon starting building touring bikes with big tire clearance, he wanted a larger tire to fit his bikes. The original 700x43c Rock N Road bikes and tires were a precursor to the modern 29er mountain bike. The new 650b version takes the same ethos and applies it to the smaller size, plus adds a tubeless kevlar folding bead.
Made in Japan by Panaracer, the Rock N Road tires sealed up well on a pair of Stan’s NoTubes rims. Getting them to seal isn’t idiot-proof, but if I can do it with a floor pump you probably can, too. I installed these wheels as an experiment on a Specialized Tricross that was designed for 700c wheels. Because the diameter of the 650x43c version is very close to that of a 700x28c tire it was a good fit and didn’t drastically affect the bike’s handling.
On the road the thin, supple sidewalls paired with the low pressure afforded by the tubeless setup give a comfortable, forgiving ride. The tread pattern might look retro but it rolls really well on smooth pavement while still allowing for some bite when the going gets soft. The gum sidewalls look fantastic but the tires are available in all black if that’s more your style. The Rock N Road tires are available straight from Bruce online or at your local bike shop.
Price: $57 each
More info: bgcycles.com