Sea Otter Picks, Part I
Our senior gear editor scopes out the best of the expoApril 18, 2011
So you’re more of a visual person? Check out our gallery of Sea Otter debuts.
The annual Sea Otter Classic, held in Monterey, Calif. is a weekend of racing and riding for road, cross-country, and downhill competitors. It also hosts a huge event expo, with waffle cones and the odd unicyclist mixed in.
LAVA joined the throngs for the idyllic, sunny weekend along California’s central coast seeking out new goods from the industry. Here’s what we found of relevance to triathletes.
The Arione, Antares and Aliante have become mainstay saddles in the Fizik line, but in a market clamoring for relief cutouts, Fizik responded with the new Versus line of those three saddles.The line is unique in that that the saddles not only don’t have a true full cutout (with an indentation instead), but also in that the indent runs true from aft through the nose of the saddle—of keen interest to triathletes that tend to ride on the saddle’s nose.
“We’ve always believed in and promoted our solid seating surface, but there’s still a market for relief cutouts,” Fizik marketing director Suzette Ayotte told LAVA. “The Versus still respects that solid design, where it maintains the integrity of the saddle by not having a cutout design, but delivers comfort with that pressure relief channel.”
Departing from the three popular road shapes, Fizik also introduced the women’s specific Arione Donna, which has a shape quite similar to the standard Arione, with a slightly wider after and shorter nose (see a photo in our complete Sea Otter image gallery). Just months old, the Donna already has an Ironman record, having been ridden to victory at Ironman South Africa by Chrissie Wellington.
The Arione is priced at $149, the Antares at $179, the Aliante at $139, and the Arione Donna at $159.
The Cytomax brand is a storied one, but one that has been unchanged for decades as the company found its growth in that wonderful protein drink that is Muscle Milk. For years, the company’s electrolyte replacement drink just cruised along. But Sea Otter marked a major change in the brand’s focus, as Cytomax underwent a makeover, exterior and interior.
“It’s definintely a new day for this brand, with the energy being put into it,” said Cytomax sales manager Greg Sellers. Sellers, who created MotorTabs five years ago and has a resonance in the endurance sports space, recently moved to this new opportunity and joined longtime national sales manager Frank Povich to grow the established brand that Chrissie Wellington and Matt Reed have been working with for the last few years. “The brand has a tremendous amount of credibility, and the fact that they brought me in means they’re serious. We just need to build on that with new innovation. We’re examining all relevant delivery systems for eletctrolytes and carbohydrates, but today, we’re excited about what we have.”
And apart from new packaging, they have infused it with stevia, a natural sweetener. This new formula of Cytomax takes out the artificial and brings down the perceived overt sweetness.
“We needed a less sweet version of Cytomax, as our feedback was that it was really sweet,” Sellers said, “so we removed the artificial sweetener and replaced it with stevia. The feedback has been amazing from all our testers.”
In addition, they debuted a stick packet, which addresses portability. They come in a 24-count box, which will retail at 80 cents per stick. Flavors for Cytomax stay the same at ever Tropical Punch, Cool Citrus, Go Grape, Pomegranete Berry, Tangy Orange and Fresh Apple. Canister pricing for a 1.5 lb is $22, with a 4.5 lb can at $49, and will be available at your local retailer in a few weeks.
GoPro Hero Naked
If you’ve not seen the video Courtney Atkinson created from a handlebar-mounted high-definition video cam, go Google that stuff; it’s pretty amazing to see the first-person perspective of the pack chaos in an ITU World Cup race.
What did he use to capture that action? The Go Pro Hero, a five megapixel HD video camera. The thing comes with a waterproof housing, which can mount securely anywhere with any number of optional hardware: onto a bike handlebar or stem, a fork blade, or the underside of an aero basebar. It can be used on helmets, or underwater with a suction bracket. They even have a strap that allows for a chest location if you wanted to document your running experience. You name it, Go Pro can document it.
The value? Since it’s waterproof to 180 feet, coaches can use them underwater for swim stroke analysis. Go Pro also offers an optional LCD screen that allows you to see the fisheye 170 degree view you’re filming.
A normal battery runs 2.5 hours with a 16 GB card. An optional battery backpack doubles it to 5 hours at a 720 resolution. The basic unit prices at $259, with a heap of accessories available.
No Flux in Giro’s Aeon
Want light, vented, and comfortable? For the last few years, a helmet buyer could pick two, but certainly not three. If you wanted to save weight, you lost comfort. It was evidenced last year with Giro’s Prolight; the helmet was sinfully light, but not the most well-vented helmet in Giro’s line, and the included weight-saving retention device was a bit of a compromise. This year, Giro showed us the Aeon. Actually, they handed us one, and the light weight was startling: 220 grams. But the thing was still fully featured, including the RocLoc 5 retention.
By shaving weight in bits on the Aeon, the savings quickly added up. The reinforcement ribs are A-framed top to bottom, at their widest along the helmet’s outer periphery, where wider distribution makes for a safer helmet with greater impact dissipation. However, the rib gets narrower as it goes down toward the head, putting a minimal amount of actual helmet on the head. “The ribs are tall, but with more material at the exterior of the helmet, it distributes impact load very well,” Giro marketing manager Eric Richter said.
And instead of using a heavy carbon fiber reinforcement between the ribs, Giro carved weight using polycarbonate. “We get the same benefit as a carbon structure, creating almost a second shell,” Richter said. “It’s 49 percent lighter than the Ionos in that—that’s a huge chunk of savings.”
Giro also switched to a new, lighter nylon chin strap, and the new, vertically-adjustable RocLoc5 retention system. That duo were 30 percent lighter than on last year’s helmet.
Apart from the weight, the ventilation is the kicker. Fellow editors who ride-tested the Aeon declared it a winner. “Air moves so well through this helmet front to back,” Richter said. We’re guessing Craig Alexander will be rocking this come October.
The $250 Aeon will be available in stores in two weeks in three sizes and eight colors.
Shimano Shadow Boxing
Shimano’s XTR RD-M985 Shadow Plus Rear Derailleur was one of our favorite debuts, and it wasn’t even a road or tri product. Why? XTERRA racers, take note.
We noticed the gold lever that sat at the rear derailleur’s front, and it took a bit of nudging to actually flip the lever and see the feature: it activates a lower pulley cage stiffener. In actuality, it’s a ratched one-way friction element, which increased spring tension of that lower jockey and resists pulling, particularly pulling from an impact-weighted chain. Activating the feature helps keep resistance on a slapping chain on rough terrain. Most noticeable is a quieter ride (since the chain isn’t slapping against the top and bottom of the chainstay).
The side benefit is that the chain is slackened less, and thus drops off the front ring less. Further, it makes for a more positive ride, since the chain remains in tension even on the roughest terrain.
The 201 gram derailleur, available in late May, will retail for $249.
Round-up number two comes tomorrow, but in the meantime, check out a sneak peak of all the releases and more at our Sea Otter image gallery.