Shiny new toys for the two-wheeled set

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It's summer somewhere. Get out and ride.

PARK CITY, Utah — It’s now officially summer (although you couldn't tell it by the snow here last week). That means it’s time to talk about our favorite warm-weather tech obsession: bikes. We recently flew to Utah to check out the newest offerings from several of the most important bike companies. What follows in the gallery above are the items we’re most excited about. There’s everything from battery-powered, full-suspension mountain bikes to ultra-aerodynamic wheels and jackets that glow in the dark. Time to step away from your computer, put down your phone, turn off your tablet and get outside.

Smith Optics' Overtake helmet

Smith Optics is known for its shades. But the company launched a pretty damn nice mountain-bike lid, called the Forefront, last year And this week they rolled out their road bike helmet, which is called the Overtake. Like the Forefront, the $250 Overtake uses Koroyd (those tubular things you see in the vents), a breathable material the company claims offers 30 percent more impact protection than traditional EPS.

In addition to solid protection and ventilation, the Overtake is also plenty aerodynamic — almost as good as the Specialized Evade, which is a big deal because the Evade is considered an industry leader in aerodynamics. As you might expect, the Overtake is designed to integrate with the company’s frameless Pivlock sunglasses, and kudos to the design team because the helmet comes in 12 different colorways, including bright pink.

CamelBak Kudu 12

CamelBak’s new Kudu 12 mountain-bike-specific pack will keep you hydrated but will also add some protection if you wreck balls. The $200 pack has a flexible, lightweight and removable impact pad that fits in a pocket in the reservoir compartment and cushions your fall if you land on your back. The pad itself is designed for enduro racers and meets even higher motorcycle standards, but the company says it’s “geared toward anyone who is doing any kind of technical riding where you just want a little extra protection.” The pad, or insert, is rated for multiple impacts so you won’t have to throw it away even after you’ve landed on it several times.

Like all of CamelBak’s bike-specific products, the Kudu 12 has some nice features, like a wide hip belt for support, a tool kit and an outer flap specifically designed to hold your helmet when you’re not on your bike. The bladder holds 3 liters, which is plenty for several hours out on the trail.

Zipp 404 Firestrike Carbon Clincher wheels

These ultra-lightweight carbon wheels will set you back $3,600 — they're more expensive than most midlevel road bikes. It’s a mind-boggling amount of money, but Zipp has put a lot of work into pushing the limits of wheel efficiency, so they’re charging a premium. According to the company, the biggest development in the 404 Firestrike Carbon Clincher is a better way to handle vortices, pockets of low pressure that form behind your wheels and yank them sideways, making you work harder than you should.

To deal with this, Zipp placed a set of dimples on the rim that shed vortices more quickly and reduce that sideways movement. Simply put, these wheels cut down on the turbulence your bike would otherwise feel out in a crosswind, which means you can go faster and farther with less energy. Our trip up and down Royal Street to Deer Valley's midmountain seemed to prove that whatever Zipp is up to works. The wheel spun up quickly, felt light, had great braking power and was not in the least bit affected by the early morning wind gusts.

Sugoi Zap jacket

This $150 jacket will make your mom proud of you. That’s because she’ll know you’re doing everything you can to stay safe when you're out riding your bike in traffic. During the day, Sugoi's Zap jacket looks just like a regular rain shell. But at night, micro-glass beads on the face fabric glow whenever they’re hit by car headlights. Paired with a front and back light on your bike, the jacket should catch the attention of even the most unaware driver. Other bike-specific features include a longer tail and longer arms for full coverage when you’re hunched over in the saddle. It’s not the jacket you want for long rides, but it’s perfect for commutes.

GT Bicycles' Grade adventure road bike

Those of us who dream of KOM wins on Strava and out-sprinting our friends to the city-limits signs tend to lust after bikes ridden in races like the Tour de France. Thing is, most of those whips are designed for the type of riding most of us don’t really do. Instead, what we like to ride at Cult of Mac are bikes from the adventure category. These bikes are still designed to be wicked fast, but they’re also a lot more comfy and much more versatile than a pure race bike.

Our newest obsession in this category is the Grade from GT Bicycles. The top model is full carbon and the frame design is a lovely mix of elements that provide plenty of power transfer, but also create a plush ride quality (taller head tube, slightly lower bottom bracket, longer wheel base, etc.). You’d have no problem racing this bike, but it’s really designed for people who just want to get out and ride (perfect for centuries, gran fondos, etc.). "We’ve loaded up on features that matter to the kind of rider who rebels against what road riding 'should' be," GT said about the new Grade. GT also designed the bike to take tires all the way up to 35c, allowing riders to get off the pavement and onto dirt roads. If you’re not sold yet, the price is also right at $3,300 for the top build. Stop thinking about the Pinarellos that Team Sky is riding and buy this bike instead.

Fabric ALM bike saddle

This full-carbon saddle looks wicked uncomfortable — like your ass would hurt after two minutes — because it’s paper-thin and only covered by a strip of padding. But looks can be deceiving. According to the Brits who run the operation, the ride quality is actually quite plush, thanks to special built-in carbon leaf springs that Fabric designed in conjunction with airplane manufacturer Airbus. Like all carbon bike products, the $330 ALM has a fine-tuned ability to dampen your ride and keep your tuchus happy. We’ll believe it when we ride it later this year, but for now we’re at least intrigued by the potential of this ultra-lightweight, ultra-slimmed-down saddle.

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Lapierre Overvolt FS 900 Mountain bike

Who in their right mind would want a $5,500 electric mountain bike? That’s what we asked the first time we saw the Lapierre Overvolt FS 900. But then we rode the silly thing and realized it’s a hoot. It’s not meant to be ridden like a motorcycle — you’re still supposed to pedal — but the Bosch motor and 400Wh battery will supposedly give riders two to three hours of assistance and make climbing and cruising easy as pie.

People who might be toast after 45 minutes can now go out and ride for a couple hours. Riders who want to concentrate on picking their line on the way up a technical section don’t have to worry as much about pedaling. Those who just want a little added speed now have it. We’re not ready to give up our pedal-powered steeds, but we see how this electric contraption might help some people get out and enjoy a little more single track. "This bike is not going to displace regular bikes, but it definitely augments the market," said Larry Pizzi, who works with Bosch.


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Pump-Hub, an ingenious system that keeps bike tires inflated, is ready to roll again

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Kevin Manning has the idea for a hub system which inflates your tires as you ride, eliminating the  need for a bike pump and making sure you have proper inflation every time you hit the street. Manning has the idea the prototypes, but lacks the funds to move into production.
Kevin Manning's ingenious Pump-Hub system inflates bike tires as you ride. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Sometimes even a great idea falls flat at first. Take Pump-Hub, a self-inflating bike tire gizmo. It was rolling along at trade shows and getting lots of good press before the financial crisis of 2008 sidelined the project.

Now its creator, engineer Kevin Manning, is getting back on track with a new team behind him and plans to expand his original idea — an automatic, adjustable, tire-inflation system housed in the hub of a bike wheel.

For cyclists, the Pump-Hub means no remembering to check the tire pressure or pack a pump, no fiddling around with the valve and then racing to put the cap back on before the air wheezes out and your aching arms have to start all over again. It inflates the tires to the proper pressure while you ride, making a gentle clickety-clack sound reminiscent of spoke cards from childhood days. When the tire hits the designated pressure, the fluttering sounds stop. If you get a flat, just upend your bike and spin the wheel until pressure is restored.

“It’s like how using a Macintosh is easier than using a command-line interface,” Manning says, turning his Gunnar bike upside down on the Embarcadero to show me how the Pump-Hub works. If you really boil down all the technology behind his invention, he adds, the main advantage basically ends up being “it’s easier.”

Gadget roundup: New gear for photogs, travelers and pencil pushers

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Sony RX-100 III

Sony’s new RX-100 III takes the best pocket camera in the world and makes it even better. Now the 20MP shooter packs a pop-up OLED viewfinder, a faster ƒ1.8-2.8 maximum aperture across the 28-100 zoom range, a new 180-degree flip-up selfie-ready screen and “full-sensor readout 1080p.” There’s even Wi-Fi so you can post the results to Instagram. $800

Large Desk Organizer

The Etsy Large Desk Organizer is fashioned from solid oak, magnets and style. It has slots for everything, from paperclips to paper to iPhones, and the two-part modular design even lets you split it up for more versatility. And all this for just (cough) [$216](Large Desk Organizer).

Tens Sunglasses

Tens shades are like Instagram filters for your eyes. They come in four colorways, and the lenses add a tint to the world outside. If they really were a filter, I’d describe that filter as adding saturation, upping the punch like a polarizer and adding a yellow-green tint. In fact, the extra contrast looks like it might be useful when riding a bike. Available in June, pre-orders via Indiegogo. $60

Vulpine Merino Wool Jersey

I’m all over this merino wool jersey. Or rather, I’d like it to be all over me. UK maker Vulpine has tweaked its classic bike jersey to make it even better. It has a button-up collar, a reflective strip on the rear zip-up pocket and is cut long at the back to fit cyclists. And becasue it’s merino wool it won’t stink even after an all-day ride, it’ll stay cool or warm, and it’ll dry quickly. £85/$143

Rickshaw Sutro backpack

Rickshaw makes my favorite bags. Now the friendly San Franciscans bring us a new backpack, the Sutro. It has padded straps, a splashproof zipper, a pocket on the front and a kind of hybrid folding/roll-top closure that lets you overload it when you need to, or carry extra tall objects. Inside is a laptop sleeve, and outside is you choice of custom fabrics and colors. $225.

Waterfield Outback Duffel

My other favorite bag maker is also in SF – Waterfield designs. The Outback Duffel is a waxed-canvas (or ballistic nylon) and leather carry bag with a big main compartment and pockets all over everywhere else. It comes in two sizes, and also tow configurations – the Double Compartment variant is split lengthwise into two spaces for better organization. Perfect for travel. $219

Nikon Underwater Speedlight

Nikon’s new underwater flash lights up the undersea world for you Nikon 1 camera (which you have hopefully stowed inside a waterproof housing). Use it on manual or auto down to 100 meters (328 feet) and use it off camera with a fiber-optic cable and mounted on an optional underwater bracket. $750

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Fresh photographic equipment stole the show this week, but we also got wind of some great new outdoor gear (and some stuff for desk jockeys).

First the camera news: Sony is coming on strong with the amazing R100 III camera, while Nikon’s most exciting new gadget is an underwater flash. On the outdoorsy front, San Francisco is gearing up for summer with new bags from my favorite bag makers Rickshaw and Waterfield, and if you’re out in the warm/cold spring on your bike, you might like to do it wearing the beautiful Vulpine merino wool cycling jersey. If you’re not the outdoors type, we have you covered too — you can stay home and organize your desk with a handsome wooden pen and phone holder.

Have fun!

Allo, The All-In-One Bike Speaker And iPhone Mount

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Here we go: Just as the spring eases into the seasonal throne and forces winter to curl up and pretend to be a footstool for the next three months, along comes the Allo, a combination bike mount and speaker for your iPhone. It’s a Kickstarter project, but as the expected delivery date is May, you should get one in time for summer.

Rickshaw Commuter 2.1 Bag Is As Well Designed As Apple Gear You’ll Put Inside [Review]

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commuter review_001

Commuter 2.1 byRickshaw
Category: Bags
Works With: iPad, MacBook
Price: $180 as tested

I’m a huge fan of Rickshaw’s bags. Pretty much everyone in the Rickshaw office cycles to work, and it shows in the design of the bags. They’re well made, practical and light, but still full of clever design details. The Commuter 2.1 is no exception, somehow managing to offer a huge collection of pickets and cubbyholes, and yet remaining light enough to be more comfy on the shoulder than many more simple messenger bags.

Want to know more? Read on:

Booq’s Nerve Is A Messenger Bag For Suits

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What would happen if you took a dork-o-lithic nylon “Executive Laptop Case” and tossed it onto a (giant) blender with a Chrome messenger bag? Well, I guess the blender would choke and break, but if you used a metaphorical blender then you’d end up with a slurry that could be turned into the Boa Nerve, a bag designed to take you “from the conference room to your bike.”

Wahoo PROTKT Lets Your iPhone Perch Safely Atop Your Bike’s Handlebars [Review]

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PROTKT byWahoo
Category: Sases, sports
Works With:iPhone 5/S
Price: $60

Take a look in your local bike emporium and you’ll see zillions of options for mounting your iPhone onto your handlebars. Wahoo’s PROTKT, as its name suggests, goes for boxy protection above all else, although the iPhone within remains quite usable. But should you go for this coddling case, or would you be better off with a super-simple silicone band?