Is there such a thing as a truly do-it-all bicycle? Gravel bikes–which are often praised for their versatility–come pretty darn close. Despite their flexibility, however, gravel rigs still share many of the design traits and limitations associated with conventional road bikes. Last summer those limitations became abundantly clear when I began including more technical off-road sections in my mixed-terrain rides. Despite the gravel bike’s wider tires and lower gears, its road-based design placed more emphasis on aerodynamics and smooth surface efficiency than off-road capabilities.
Around the time of my existential off-road crisis, a press release from Oregon-based bike wizard Jeff Jones found its way into my inbox. The press release announced that Jones was now offering a carbon version of his popular Loop handlebar. Having previously tested—and liked–the aluminum Loop bar, I figured the new carbon version might be just what I needed to improve my gravel bike’s off-road capabilities. After a series of email exchanges, Jeff suggested that I give him a call.
The Jones in its natural habitat.
Words and photos by Jon Doyle
While Terrene may not yet be a household name, the upstart tire company aims to change that with their line of knobby and all-road rubber. Debuting their wares at the 2016 Interbike trade show, Terrene’s lineup includes the 26″ Wazia for fat bikes, the 27.5″ and 29″ Chunk knobbies, and the 700C and 650B mixed-surface Elwood. Terrene labels the Elwood ($65 MSRP) a dirt road tire; up to the challenge of varying hard surfaces. It resembles a semi-slick cross tire, and would certainly be of interest to those looking for an oversized race tire. I put the 650B x 47mm Elwoods on my Rawland all-road bike and explored unpaved roads, trails, and the snow-covered urban landscape.
The Elwood comes in Light and Tough variations, the Tough containing an additional protective layer (TekShield) that is noticeable, yet still quite flexible when handling the two tires. My samples weighed 425 grams and 530 grams, respectively, matching Terrene’s data. The 47mm width was also as specified. Both tires utilize a soft, grippy 60A rubber with flexible casing and folding beads. In-hand they feel like a high-end MTB tire, sticky and yielding—not like a rigid touring tire. I installed the Light in front, Tough in back, where the risk of flats, cuts and sidewall abrasions is greatest.
The Elwoods fit snuggly onto my Velocity A23 and Pacenti SL23 rims. My first attempt at tubeless installation was unsuccessful, the beads just didn’t want to slide outward onto the rim’s bead seat. Soapy water and an air compressor couldn’t make it happen. After a period with innertubes installed, the second try went easily (My tubeless experience was similar–editor). Both the Light and Tough sidewalls weeped sealant considerably, but that’s not uncommon with light, flexible casings.
If you’ve been itching to try SRAM’s 1x road components but were put off by the price, the Apex 1 group may just get you to ditch your front derailleur. Available in drop- and flat-bar versions, Apex 1 boasts a whopping 380% gear range. How does SRAM’s value-priced group stack up against the company’s costlier Rival 1 and Force 1 components?
Reviewing helmets is tricky. You can test fit and comfort, but very few of us are willing to take one for the team and actually crash test them in the name of journalistic integrity. While I’m happy to report that I didn’t need to test the efficacy of these helmets, I’m no stranger to cycling-related head injuries. Two and a half years ago I fell while riding my bicycle. I hit my head and sustained a concussion.
As you might imagine, that incident sparked an increased interest in bicycle helmet construction and design. At last year’s Interbike trade show, I spent a good portion of my time talking with manufacturers about helmet technology and mild traumatic brain injuries. And while each company touted the superiority of their respective technologies and features, practically every bicycle helmet shares the same basic design–namely, a layer of crushable foam encased in a protective shell that’s secured with a simple chin strap.
These five helmets cover a wide range of disciplines including commuting, off-road, and urban riding. Prices range from just under $70 to $230, but as the BHSI.org points out, less expensive helmets don’t provide reduced protection compared to their pricier counterparts. Each of these helmets complies with the necessary certification standards, so you can choose a helmet that fits your budget without compromising safety.