Saddleback is the UK distributor for some very nice brands including Castelli, Rotor, Alchemy, Rotor, Stages and others, and this week it hosted a dealer and press show at its new and much larger premises near Bristol to let us see the very newest products. road.cc popped along to take a look and here are some of the highlights. Ready for some bling?
Rotor’s lightweight cassette
Rotor’s Uno hydraulic groupset isn't quite available yet, it's aimed for a 2017 launch. While we’ve written many words about the hydraulic groupset in the past 12 months, we hadn’t seen the cassette it has also developed as part of the new groupset. Here it is.
It’s made of two parts, the first nine sprockets are machined as one piece from titanium, and the two largest sprockets are aluminium and bolt to the titanium cluster. The result is one extremely light cassette, just 135g for this 11-28t item with a lockring. Its neat trick is customisable ratios, with the two larger sprockets being removable so you can fit up to a 32t sprocket if you need it. It’s looking at an early 2017 launch but no price has been set yet. Don’t expect it to be cheap.
Elsewhere in the Rotor range is this new Qarbon chainring. The bulk of the chainring is machined from aluminium as normal but it has recessed the front and filled the vacant space with carbon fibre. It says it gains stiffness and saves about 20g of weight.
Alchemy coming to the UK
Denver-based Alchemy is one of the few brands making carbon fibre frames in the US, in an era when just about the vast majority of carbon frames are made in the Far East. UK availability has been patchy, to say the least, but Saddleback is aiming to change that and will be fully supporting the brand and it is looking to stock about 20 dealers around the UK so they’ll be a bit easier to get hold off. If you’re in the market for an extremely premium and expensive custom carbon frame, of course. I’ve long been aware of and admired the work of Alchemy Bikes, I’ve even ridden a few of its models, like the Arion aero carbon bike here, so to hear Saddleback now taking care off the brand is a good thing.
The Helios SL pictured above features mildly shaped tube profiles with a design that is aimed at being an all-rounder, ideal for crit racing or fast performance riding, where a balance of stiffness and agility is required.
It has shaped the tubes to provide an aero benefit, with an aero top tube and down tube with a regular round seat tube. The ends of the tubes are flared to increase stiffness. It’s also very light, claimed weight for a 54cm is just 790g. There is full internal cable routing, a 44mm head tube, PressFit 86 bottom bracket and Enve fork.
Because of the way Alchemy makes its frames, the Helios can be fully customised in every way to suit your specific demands, and of course with a huge range of colour options available.
Not on display, unfortunately, was the Atlas, the company’s newest and least expensive road frame. It shares the geometry of the Helios but a new construction process (still made in Denver) cuts down the man hours involved and brings the price down. The geometry and size range will be stock, with five sizes from 52 to 60cm.
The geometry and size range will be stock, with five sizes from 52 to 60cm, and there’ll be fewer options on the paint jobs. And it’s still light, just 900g for the frame.
But Alchemy doesn’t just deal in carbon fibre, it also makes steel and titanium bikes. This is the Skylla, a stainless steel road bike made from KVA MS3 tubing, and it’s made in the US as well.
Options include stock or custom geometry and a choice of paint finishes - we’re particularly liking this blue - with an Enve fork and high-end finishing kit.
If titanium floats your boat, this Eros is the bike for you. It has developed its own unique dropouts which hold the s-bends rear stays into place. There is a tapered head tube and choice of bottom brackets, stock or custom geometry and electronic or mechanical groupset compatibility.
The non-driveside stays have been seriously reinforced, and it's rare to see the brake caliper mouned to the seatstays these days.
This video goes behind the scenes at Alchemy and provides a nice glimpse at what is involved in making a frame
Stages launch GPS computer and training software
The Stages Dash computer is coming soon, with an expected availability of next April. It will cost about £330, but that price will be finalised nearer the time. The computer is designed to work seamlessly with the company’s power meters and offers all the data any serious training cyclist could possibly need. It uses Bluetooth and ANT+ to communicate with the power meter and has GPS for position, speed, distance and also navigation duties.
The data screens can be fully customised and display a maximum of 16 datasets, though we reckon it would be pretty dangerous to have this much data on display while riding along. Still, it’s there for those that want it. A unique feature of Dash is the ability to choose between landscape and portrait orientations. The product shown was a prototype and it’s still working on the final version of the case design, and the buttons will change before it’s ready for release. We like the tactile rubber material used around the edges and the aluminium construction which give it a high-quality feel compared to plastic computers.
There’s a handlebar mount that is still being finalised and it’s hoping to have some third party aftermarket mounts available as well.
That’s not all, Stages is also developing Link, a cloud-based training platform. The aim with Link, and also Dash, is to help people unleash the potential of riding with power in a meaningful way. Link does everything you’d expect a fully comprehensive raining package to do, from a calendar with detailed workout views. Workouts can be customised and pushed to the Dash device. Another neat trick is the ability to customise the Dash computer within the Link software.
Link isn’t quite ready yet but should be available by the end of the year. It’ll offer a basic free version or a subscription model, with the first two months being free.
Enve's improved rim brake performance
Enve has now rolled out its updated brake track across most of its wheel range. The file tread pattern is actually moulded onto the rim at the same time as the rest of the rim is manufactured (it’s not applied afterwards) and is said to provide up to a 30% improvement in braking performance.
Sidi Shot launched in the UK
The new Sidi Shot has landed in the UK, and there’s a raft of colours to choose from. It has to be white, though, right?
The new shoe relocates the closing mechanisms, Sidi’s own rotary dial, to the centre of the shoe, mounted on the tongue, and it has also eliminated the ratchet strap of the Wire Carbon shoe. We like the new reflective panels on the back of the show for a bit of added visibility at night.
Start saving now, the new Sidi Shot will cost £350.
Castelli's new Irdo jacket
Gore-Tex has, in my opinion, set the new benchmark for waterproof jackets with its latest Active One fabric, and Castelli is now using the fabric in its new Idro jacket. One of the big claims for this jacket, facilitated by the new permanent beading surface of the fabric that eliminates the textile on the outer face of the fabric, it that it’s very light: a claimed 123g. The jacket will be a close-fitting shape with a waterproof YKK zipper and a zipped opening at the back for accessing jersey pockets. It costs £230.
Some generous reflective details around the back should help you stand out - the fabric does currently limit colour choices.
There’s some new clothing in Castelli’s Chpt.III range developed with David Millar, including this dapper rain jacket.
Time for a coffee…
Cielo's beautiful steel road bikes
We spotted this distinctive Cielo Road Racer lurking in the new Saddleback offices.
The bike brand comes from the Chris King stable, they’re made in the same factory that King headsets and bottom brackets come out of.
The steel frame features a press-fit bottom bracket and oversized head tube. The tube profiles, chunky and the bioval down tube and top tube, suggest the frame has been built for demanding rider, to minimise flex and twist under load. It’s smartly decked out with parts that complement the frame colour, including the Arundel bar tape and Continental tyres.
Here’s a Cielo with disc brakes and a Shimano Di2, showing the frame can be customised for any flavour of groupset you want.
Silca's flash saddle pack
My highlight of the show? Probably the Silca Seat Roll Premo, a saddlebag that shoes a Boa dial, more commonly found on shoes, to attach to the saddle rails.
The actual bag is made from a heavy duty waxed canvas and there are three compartments for inner tubes, Co2 canisters and tools. Load up your essentials, fold the top flap over, and then roll it up, with a centre strap for added security.
The Boa retention cable, after being passed under the saddle rails, is attached to a small plastic guide that clips onto the pack and you rotate the dial to tighten it all up. It sounds elaborate for what is a humble
It sounds elaborate for what is a humble saddle pack, but it looks like a good system for ensuring the pack is securely fixed in lace and can’t move around. It’s very easy to use as well, and certainly less fiddly with a wider range of adjustment than other saddlebag designs.
We’ll try and get one in for a test when it’s available later this year to put it to the test. It will cost £48 or £100 loaded with tools.
Lastly, here’s the very expensive Silca HX-One Home and Travel Tool Kit (£120) signed by Mario Cipollini.
Watch our for reviews of some of these products soon...
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