Ventum Z

If there’s one thing we learn from the amazingly wild development we’ve seen in the last year or so, it’s that the technology starts high, and in the span of a year or two, becomes available to the greater masses. Ventum is actioning that premise quickly with the debut of the Ventum Z.

ventumzThe bike uses the same basic platform that Leanda Cave, Pete Jacobs, Meredith Kessler and others will be rolling in a couple weeks at the Hawaii Ironman; the Ventum frame with the downtube- and seatstay-free design and the integrated hydration bottle. But in a move that helps care cost, Ventum replaces its fork with integrated inline brake and brake cover with a standard front end (an 1 1/8” carbon fiber 3T fork) and Shimano Ultegra single-pivot caliper brakeset.

Ventum also takes the bike spec down—but not too far. A Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset is parsed out with a Shimano 105 crankset,  and a Vision Team 25 semi-aero alloy rim wheelset. It will also feature its own Ventum carbon stem and aerobar… but as with the Ventum One, you can run any stem/aerobar configuration you like.

All told, it takes a bike that at its top end (the Ventum One limited features an Enve 7.8s wheelset, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 gruppo and Ceramic Speed’s OSPW oversized rear derailleur jockey) that prices at $14,300 to an ultra-affordable price, still with Di2 electronic shifting, to a super-affordable $5,499…. A few hundred dollars less than the Cervelo P3. Finally, for those that thought they couldn’t afford a Ventum… well, now you can.

Silca Speed Balance

Silca wowed us the last year or so with its line of hyper-engineered floor pumps, bringing back to glory the Italian-born brand with product worthy (actually beyond worthy) of the name. It’s almost a pity to let Silca stuff sit on a garage floor; it’s better suited to a study mantle.

With pumps established, Silca founder and president Josh Poertner turned his attention to other items he knew he could improve on. This year at Interbike, Poertner debuts a bevy of new gear, including:

  • Tattico Mini-Pump. This littlebeauty, Poertner says, has the industrial design that he sought; matte black, file cross-hatch traction, and an extendable hose, befitting the name Tattico, or “tactical” in Italian. But it’s Poertner’s design that allows the Tattico to be much more utilitarian; he created a pump capable of more than doubling the amount of extension, making it a mini pump that nearly has the range (and improved function with a longer, more voluminous stroke) of a full-size frame pump. And it’s affordable, too: $55.
  • The Silca Seat Roll. The classic seat roll, pocketed with space for your tube, tire lever and CO2s is comprised of a 12-ounce waxed canvas that molds to the shape of the packed items, and somewhat fills voids within the saddle rails under cinching load. But it’s made Silca-unique by using BOA lacing to cinch up to the rails. A Hypalon clip (used by Burton in the ski/snow industry) clips the roll together, and the BOA dials snugs it all up. It’ll price at $49.
  • The Silca Wallet with Dry Bag. Super stylish place to put your smart phone, credit card and other flat accoutrements of the coffee ride he adds a touch of practical style to the zip-up wallet with a magnetic oversnap that features the same reflective material used by airport ground crews for safety. The result is a simple wallet that, peeking out just over the top of your jersey pocket, provides an element of safe reflectivity. $39 for this one.

But our favorite item is probably the least expensive pure performance piece: The Silca Speed Balance. After a long career in the carbon fiber wheel game (and given his experience in auto racing engineering) Poertner saw a small, but important issue he could fix with ease: a race wheel’s imbalance. Considering that aero wheels have both reinforced valve hole areas, and of course the weight of a valve (and sometimes valve extender… and sometimes a heavy brass valve extender), a wheel will spin with imbalance. It makes for a small oscillation effect, but it’s one that over the course of hundreds of thousands of revolutions, is an area of robbed performance. There’s a reason cars have lead balancing weights attached, and there’s no reason a wheel shouldn’t have one, too.

Enter the Speed Balance. Silca created a rubber airfoil, within which houses four tungsten metal slugs that total 10 grams of weight. Tape it onto your wheel (before committing it to the rim with the adhesive) opposite the valve and give the wheel a slight spin. Is the balance now the heaviest element on the wheel, sinking to the floor? Remove the speed balance, take out one 2.5 tungsten slug (using needlenose pliers), and spin it again. Once the wheel reaches that harmonic balance where it stops at any random point, you’re done; your wheel is balanced.

Bonus: SpeedBalance also includes a magnet, you’ve now got a built in new wheel magnet, meaning no ugly magnets threaded onto a spoke of your beautiful aero race wheel.

silcaspeedbalancekit

SpeedBalance is countered on the other side of the wheel (at the valve) by an unweighted, but matching aero fairing that slides over the valve and serves as an aero cover, called the SpeedShield Aero Valve Stem Pod. It’s a small aero improvement over the wind hitting a round, exposed valve… and also included in the box.

And yes, Poertner did the math: SpeedBalance and SpeedShield end up saving 1 watt at 30mph—a touch more savings, he says, than upgrading those same wheels with ceramic bearings.

Total price? $38. There’s worse areas to chase reductions in grams of drag.