Yeah, whatever, it's late. Story of my life. I've been busy. I'll be catching up. Anyway, here's a smattering of what I caught a looong time at in Monterey at Sea Otter, and a little news from Wildflower.... lots of pretty pics and a few words. Well, maybe more than a few words. At least I'm not reviewing some ice wine or whatever one of my Triathlete contemporaries is doing right now. I can't wait until Brad espouses the variances on the palate of St. Ides, Mad Dog 20/20 or Mickey's. In fact Brad, I'll give you $20 to drink the bottle of Night Train screw-top wine in Wattie's office I won at Interbike like, six year ago. C'mon, twenty bucks... that's two pizzas and some cookies. You can eat like a pi... a king. Eat like a king.
Back to Sea Otter: among the offerings were two big debuts: the debut of the new SRAM redesigns of Force and Rival, and the debut of Edge Composites. Let's look at SRAM first.
SRAM held a press conference at Otter to show of some stuff that probably doesn't have the carbon bling factor, but resonated with those of us that have to look after the mortgage and putting food on the table ahead of carbon.
So if carbon isn't the option, how about aluminum? SRAM showed off the 500TT aero brake levers. For $108 a pair, you get the same shape and design (a functional return spring being the most important element) as the carbon version, at a few grams of added weight. They're 99 grams. Great deal. They also debuted a new 500 level TT shifter—same as the carbon version in every way, except using aluminum instead of carbon on the shifters. 154 grams a pair, at $120.
You can also now throw them on Zipp's new SRAM-compatible s-bend extensions. The extension represents the first collaborative between Zipp and SRAM after the latter purchased the former. While it was only a sample, in the hand, the absence of a plug-in feels really positive for shifting—zero potential for flex of the shifter in this version.
Also on show: a new TT ring set, in 54 or 55 big blade and 42-tooth inner ring. I trust we'll see T.J. Tollakson and the rest of a growing lot of SRAM-sponsored pros turning the cranks on these.
Staying on the "value" theme, SRAM did announce some major redesign changes. Nothing with Red; from our account, they have done nothing short of nail it all on the Red group. It's light, shifts crisp as a sunny spring morning, and the shifter/brake lever shape for the full road groupset is ergonomically solid. I've been riding Red for the last few months on my Cervelo and have been so pleased with it. It made me think about how fast and far they came. I mean, Force was hot when it debuted two years ago, now it's off the back. As is Rival.
Well, Force and Rival just caught up. The two junior groups took on a new facelift, both cosmetically and functionally for 2009. The biggest gainer is Rival, which takes on new shifter shape and adjustable lever reach akin to Red, and also adopts a front chainring trim. The brake levers go from alloy to a sexy matte carbon, the levers themselves dropping 40 grams. Also cool about Rival: the crankset crankarm length comes in an insane length range: 165mm to 180mm. Many of the pro roadies have been riding Force cranks just to get the fit option they want.
Entire Rival group: $919. Damn. The Force group gets the same cosmetic facelift and front ring trim. Shimano's coming, but they better come strong, because SRAM is taking no shorts. And Campy? I hope their new marketing man, Tom Kattus, can impart upon the Italians how far off the back they've fallen with the triathlon market. Tom's a tri guy, so I hope to hear he's throwing his weight around there (when he's not surfing in Fiji).
Last SRAM item: they'll debut in '09 a few new cassettes. The new SRAM Red Powerdome cassette will be available in an 11-26 option, which is great. But the Force and Rival cassettes will go further than that, with an.... 11-28. Wow. They'll also have a 12-25, 12-26 and 12-27. What a killer climbing range.
They had on display the process by which they create a Red cassette. From left to right you can see its raw form: an alloy billet (which would make a nice paperweight) that is CNC'd into a hollowed one-piece cassette. SRAM's Michael Zellmann tells me it was a young engineer at their Chicago office who came up with that one. I said they need to give that kid a raise.
I've known Jim Pfeil, former Reynolds Composites staffer, for some years, being that their offices were located in nearby Carlsbad. When the company's brainpower, namely Jim and a bunch of top engineers) left, they reconvened in Utah to form Edge Composites. So I knew that when they were to debut some new wheels, they'd be nothing short of special. They make their own rims, which are some of the strongest I've ever ridden. Hell, Jason Schiers, the president of the company, was the first to create the all-carbon clincher.
So Sea Otter marked My eyes were on their 68mm clincher. Capable of taking up to 160psi, this... this is what I wish my wife could ride (if she didn't have an existing sponsorship). Hell, this is what I want to ride. I've seen waaay too many folks who have bitchin tubulars, flat in the race... and just stand there with their tubular in their hand, wondering what the hell to do.
I'm not gonna make this a "you should learn how to change a tubular in a race" schpeil, because Edge Composites solves for this with a wheel you can race or train on, and has all the weight savings of full carbon. I mean, we're raised on clinchers, why not have a real race wheel you can use them on too? I hope to do some testing on this wheel soon. They also have a 38mm clincher, and tubular versions of both wheels. All light, all way, way strong, built on DT Swiss hubs. They're all gorgeous. Steve Larsen won Worlds Toughest Triathlon last weekend on the deep tubulars from Edge Composites. He could win on anything, but the fact Steve picked these, that speaks volumes.
Edge Composites is also the first brand I've seen to make full-carbon mountain bike tires. Not ones for show. These are for DH, hard XC. Again, you have to see these rims to believe.
They also have road and mountain bike bars 320g Aero 1.0. They also offer a slightly more stout 2.0 version.
I'm glad to see the guys that built one brand are building another, but doing it on a wholly other level that surpasses anything they've done before. I mean, real full-carbon mountain bike wheels? Who else could have created that? This is a company on the rise, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few on the pier in Kona. These are just that good, and in a carbon clincher form, that easy to use.
The rest of Sea Otter saw a lot of cool new stuff. Including...
Continental GP4000 tubulars. Yes, they exist. I bought one of these for my wife's new rear Hed Stinger 90 before she did Ironman China. I've had nothing but great luck with Continental, so to see the GP4000 finally available in a tubie, meant a level of security that my wife was most likely not gonna flat. She often doesn't appreciate the nuiances of a good ride, but she does if it fails her. Fortunately, the GP4000 didn't attract her attention, delivering her without incident. Whew. On what was a reputedly rough course, it was to task.
All of the new tires, tubie or clincher (GP4000, are getting a new tire-toughening agent called Black Chili, and retain the Vectran flat-resistance layer. It's the Vectran that gives me that piece of mind against flats, but the Black Chili compound adds a tacky new gumminess to the rubber that I really like.
And, of course, Conti has the baddest color range this side of the rainbow. For those of us that like to color coordinate, Conti is the only option for a "pretty" tire you can actually ride with the 4000. I mean, who else has brown tires? Or two tones of blue?
Fi'zi:k also showed off something some MTB guys and road time trialers have been playing with: stick pads. These felt-topped adhesive pieces are to go on top of your saddle (no, it doesn't have to be a Fi'zi:k saddle to help prevent slipping. I haven't tried this, as I like to range around on the saddle, particularly if I'm on a hilly or rolling course. Perhaps on a flat course like Brazil or Florida, if you like to lock into that one position they might do the trick though. One to test sometime.
We also got a look at the new paintjob for the Look 486, the one that started the whole bayonet front end craze. I've liked the bike, but never really dug the look. I like it now.
We also ran into this chick, who just last week started off her season with a win at Xterra Temecula. Canadian Melanie McQuaid plans to split for Europe to get after the Xterra Europe circuit and face off against Julie Dibens, who trumped her in Maui last year. I love that since Dibens ain't coming here, she's facing her foe on her turf. As Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zack de la Rocha says, know your enemy. With Jamie Whitmore sidelined (and making a hard-charging recovery) after a tumor in her glute and hamstring (I'll be following up with you on her more soon, as I spent a good 45 minutes chatting with her at Temecula last weekend, and will be writing a feature on her for Competitor), McQuaid needs to find someone who challenges her as much as Jamie. Mel's on the warpath.
One last on Jamie: Given all that has been rained upon her, she has been an absolute rock star to show up at Wildflower and Xterra Temecula, present at Xterra to support her boy, Courtney Cardenas. If you want to help a cool chick and a world champion through a bit of a crossroads, drop her an email (gutzytrigirl at gmail dot com), get her a grocery card, whatever. She's the optimistic I know many of us wish we were, and I think her positive mindset overall can help her get rolling again... or get that foot moving. But I reckon it hurt a lot for her to see the girls take off for the race start at Vail Lake.
At Wildflower, I had a chance to smush her between two good guys and make her a Jamie sandwich at the Cannondale truck down by Lake San Antonio. When this whole cancerous mass in her leg thing went down with Jamie, her sponsors totally had her back. "Monavie, ESI Grips and Zeal have really stuck by and gone above and beyond," Jamie told me. "Monavie has honored my contract, and ESI Grips and Zeal have donated a percentage of sales to help with bills! And TYR and Michelin have been great by sending care packages and such!"
The guys I always see at the races were her bike sponsors. Several years back it was Felt racing, and currently, Cannondale. Both Cannondale's Bill Rudell and Felt namesake Jim Felt have been huge fans of Jamie aside from sponsors, and both have been there to support her through it. Not too many industries big or small, that respond like our industry does, let alone two competing brands. "Cannondale has not only been there financially but as a friend, and I can never forget about Jim Felt and his family!" That's Jim on the right and Bill to the left of Jamie.
Oh, remember how Jamie always rocked her bikes with "Powered by God" decal? She keeps it rolling, on the brace supporting her left foot, which has foot fall due to the nerve that was damaged in the removal of the tumor that had wrapped itself around the nerve.
In the meantime, Jamie, paddles, pullbuoy and band... and Compex.... and get that leg stronger!