Tag Archives: First Impressions

First Impressions: Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II Shoes

It used to be that choosing cycling shoes for off-road riding meant one thing: compromise. Stiffness and efficiency often came at the expense of traction and walkability (and vice-versa). Rarely could you have your proverbial cake and eat it, too. Thanks to Pearl Izumi’s X-Alp Launch II shoes, however, gravel and adventure riders don’t have to sacrifice performance for off-the-bike comfort and durability.

At first glance, the X-Alp Launch II ($160 MSRP) may not look that different from many other recreational cycling shoes. Don’t let the subdued graphics and clean lines fool you, though, because the Launch II shares technology found on Pearl Izumi’s more expensive X-Project 1.0 shoes. And in case you’re wondering if the X-Alp can handle your local trails, the X-Alp just happens to be the shoe of choice for world-champion racer Brian Lopes.

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First Impressions: absoluteBLACK Oval Chainring (Part-I)

Despite a recent resurgence in popularity, oval chainrings are not new technology. Dating as far back as 1890, non-round chainrings have made numerous appearances in the marketplace, with the most in/famous being Shimano’s Biopace. More recently, oval rings enjoyed a boost in popularity when professional road racers Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins used non-round rings in their quests for Tour de France victories. And now, oval chainrings such as those offered by absoluteBLACK are seeing more use among off-road riders.

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2016 Light Roundup: Part-I

It’s no secret that bicycle light technology has improved by leaps and bounds. The current crop of lights have more power, run longer, and cost less than last year’s offerings. Whether you’re a hardcore commuter or avid recreational rider, there’s bound to be a light that fits your budget and requirements.

Lights generally fall into one of two categories–see by, and be seen lights. The former are brighter, and enable the rider ride safely in areas without ambient light sources (e.g streetlights). The latter, on the other hand, are mostly used for improving cyclists’ visibility in low-light conditions (think urban riding).

Manufacturers specify light output in lumens. Generally, the more lumens, the brighter the light. For my testing, I separated the lights by output. Those lights with a rating of less than 100 lumens were considered be seen lights, while lights rated over 100 lumens were classified as see by lights. This installment covers the lights with 100+ lumens, and Part-II will feature lights with outputs of less than 100 lumens.

Model Max Output
(lumens)
Weight
(grams)
Price
(USD)
Bontrager Ion 700 RT 700 142 $139.99
CatEye Volt 800 800 152 $130.00
CatEye Volt 1200 1200 235 $220.00
Knog Blinder Arc 640 640 150 $119.95
Knog Blinder Road 250 250 75 $79.95
Planet Bike Blaze 650 XLR 650 128 $94.99

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First Impressions: Speedplay SYZR Pedals

Speedplay‘s SYZR pedals were in development for so long that many riders–myself included–wondered if the unique pedals would ever make it to market. With claims of road-worthy power transfer and superior mud-clearing ability, the San Diego-based company’s pedals achieved a near-mythical status. Then, in 2015, the wait was finally over when the SYZRs officially hit the shelves.

SYZR pedals pair

The SYZR may look like your standard off-road clipless pedal, but the design is anything but ordinary. For starters, Speedplay reversed the pedals’ latch mechanisms–SYZRs utilize a pivoting front latch instead of pivoting rear latch. According to Speedplay, this new latch design reduces the likelihood of accidental release when pulling hard on the pedals (because you no longer pull up against the release mechanism). Then there are the cleats. Speedplay threw convention out the window, and moved the pivot mechanism directly inside the cleat, enabling micro-adjustable float adjustment.

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