Tag Archives: First Impressions

First Impressions: Bell Gage MIPS & Stoker MIPS Helmets

It’s no secret that bicycle helmet technology has improved dramatically over the past 40 years. Today’s helmets are lighter, more comfortable, and look a radically different than their predecessors. Some of the more recent technological advances aren’t so obvious, though. Since 1996, Stockholm-based MIPS has been working on improving how helmets protect against rotational trauma and angled impacts. In 2014, MIPS partnered with Bell Helmets to bring MIPS technology to a wider audience.

Bell currently offers sixteen MIPS-equipped helmets, which range in price from $60 to $240. With MIPS-equipped helmets available in road, mountain, lifestyle, and gravity models, Bell has something for any type of cyclist. I split my riding between pavement, dirt, and gravel, so I opted to test the company’s Stoker MIPS ($95 MSRP) and Gage MIPS ($195 MSRP) helmets.

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First Impressions: Five Ten Kestrel Shoes

Five Ten‘s sticky-soled shoes are renowned among flat and platform pedal users for their tenacious grip. If you happen to prefer clipless over flats, don’t fret though, because Five Ten offers ten SPD-compatible shoes for both men and women. And in 2016, the company’s top all-mountain shoe–the Kestrel ($180 MSRP)–gets some company in the form of the Kestrel Lace model ($150 MSRP).

As you might expect, the original and new Kestrel Lace models both feature Five Ten’s Stealth® rubber outsoles. While the two shoes’ soles may look similar, the original Kestrel features a dual-compound outsole that utilizes the company’s Stealth® C4 and Mi6 formulas (the Kestral Lace is spec’d with the company’s Stealth C4 rubber outsole). Despite the different compounds, both soles have the same dotty pattern for off-the-bike traction, and stitched toe caps for improved durability.

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First Impressions: Crankbrothers Candy 7 Pedals

When I tested Crankbrothers’ Candy 3 pedals two years ago, I found them to be good, all-around pedals for off-road use. My only real gripe with the system was dialing in the shoe/pedal interface as the cleats and shoes wore from use. Even with the aid of Crankbrothers’ cleat shims and optional stainless steel Shoe Plates, finding the right blend of support and ease of entry/exit was largely hit or miss. So when Crankbrothers announced their new Candy 7 pedals (MSRP $165 USD) with configurable traction pads, I jumped at the chance to give them a try.

The Candy 7 and 11 pedals’ improvements aren’t limited to the aforementioned traction pads. To address durability issues, the company partnered with bearing giants igus and Enduro to develop a new system designed to excel in the pedals’ low-speed, high-torque environment. New seals were also added to keep water and debris from entering the pedal’s bearings The iconic Candy pedal bodies also get some fine tuning in the form of added ribs for better traction when unclipped, and chamfered edges to reduce rock strikes.

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First Impressions: absoluteBLACK Oval Chainring (Part-II)

In the first installment of GRAVELBIKE’s absoluteBLACK (aB) review, I covered aB’s 28T oval MTB chainring. Since then, the company began shipping their new oval CX chainrings. Available in conventional and direct-mount versions, absoluteBLACK’s CX rings feature the company’s Patent Pending narrow-wide tooth design. Because the conventional 5-bolt CX ring isn’t compatible with SRAM cranksets that have a hidden 5th bolt, I opted to test the direct-mount version. Over the past few weeks, I’ve logged 300-350 miles with the company’s 40T oval CX chainring on my Salsa Vaya gravel/commuter rig.

aB_40_chainring-min      aB-40-back-min

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