Friday, April 07, 2023

Friday News And Views

The Gravaa KAPS system explained. (Image courtesy of Gravaa)
Adjustable On-The-Fly Air Pressure For Cycling In The News Again:

 Almost a year ago now in a "FN&V" I wrote about the Scope Atmoz adjustable air pressure system. Now another company is in the news touting the benefits of adjustable on-the-fly air pressure hubs. 

Gravaa has a system called KAPS (Kinetic Air Pressure System) which is also hub based and allows the rider to adjust air pressure up or down at will while riding. The system is so promising that Team Jumbo-Visma of the Pro road circuit is trying it out for the Spring classics in Europe. 

Comments: Gravaa sells the system as a wheel set which costs approximately $4700.00 US, so it likely won't be seen a lot here, but this isn't fairy dust. It's real, and with two companies at it in this space, I suspect this idea will stick. There are claimed benefits which are too big to ignore for racing, that's for sure. And we all know that racing informs what becomes available in the high-end realm of cycling. 

Fat bikes, mountain bikes, cyclo cross, and gravel bikes probably will all have this option available to them in more slickly packaged, high-tech offerings in the near future. Unless the UCI bans this, which, you know, is entirely possible. That said, no other racing that occurs with pneumatic tires has this sort of technology that I am aware of unless it is off-road vehicles, which I could totally see being applicable. Point being, if it isn't allowable in most motorsports, I can see where the UCI might be against this. But for now, it is an intriguing option on the horizon for cyclists. 

Rocky Mountain Solo Carbon 90 (Image courtesy of Rocky Mountain Bikes)

Rocky Mountain Announces Carbon Fiber Gravel Bike:

Rocky Mountain Bikes exhibited a new carbon fiber frame/.fork gravel bike on their website last week and I thought that it was interesting for a couple of reasons. The bike can be seen on their website here in case you want to check it out further. 

Comments: So, one thing that I find fascinating is how a predominantly mountain bike brand interprets a "gravel bike". Do they go with the "mountain bike-ification" of gravel, or what? Are we going to see a suspension fork, 29'er tires, and a dropper post, like what Evil Bikes or some others are doing, or will this be a straight-ahead gravel machine? 

In this case, it is not only a straight-ahead gravel bike, but it has a couple features that I found intriguing. One is that Rocky Mountain opted for a 75mm bottom bracket drop. That's low and pretty much precludes usage of 650B rubber, which some MTB brands like to allow for on their gravel rigs. Not that you couldn't use 650B, but it gets dicey when you drop the BB height that low. 

The other thing was that Rocky did not spec a telescoping suspension fork. That's interesting, and while I could not find a fork specification, it doesn't appear that Rocky Mountain intended for this model to allow for one either. 

I like the geometry, and I think Rocky Mountain hit this one out of the ball park. Nice job! 

The Focus Atlas 8.8 (Image courtesy of Focus)

Focus Debuts Atlas Range With Boost Spacing:

Focus Bikes announced earlier this week that they have a new Atlas range of carbon fiber gravel bikes out which, amongst other things, features Boost axle spacing front and rear. There also is a unique bag carrying function which wasn't clearly spelled out on the webpage, but it may be something of interest

Comments: Again, I typically will not feature every press release with a bike for gravel here, but this bike has an obvious change which necessitates a bit of discussion. Boostif you are not familiar with that term, is an axle spacing utilized by almost every mountain bike now and essentially adds 10mm of width up front and another 6mm out back on a through axle set up. So, 110mm front versus the road based 100mm and 148mm out back versus the typical 142mm through axle standard, which itself is based upon 135mm quick release dimensions. 

You may ask "Why?". Well, this allows for stronger wheels, by allowing for a wider distance between hub flanges to allow for a better spoking angle from hub to rim. Focus is billing this as an adventure bike, or a bikepacking bike, if that makes more sense to you. Loads on the frame typically will handle better with a wheel that has better lateral strength. So, this makes sense to me. 

But what I think this indicates is a wider move in the near future for all gravel bikes. It will make all previous "gravel wheel sets" obsolete, but this along with a move to the so-called direct mount rear derailleur standard is going to be here in the upper end offerings, in my opinion, very soon. 

Your current gravel bikes will be supported yet for a while, but this Boost spacing and direct mount rear derailleur thing is coming and honestly, I think road bikes will also be affected. Especially with the direct mount thing. Having no replaceable hangars will be a boon to future direct-to-consumer sales and self-service bike shop retail, which I believe is the future in cycling retail coming soon. The service industry side of repair/maintenance will benefit as well. 

As seen on Twitter Tuesday
Team Movistar To Add Gravel Squad With Valverde As Lead Rider:

Tuesday on social media news broke about formerly retired Pro Road rider Alejandro Valverde and Team Movistar joining forces to launch the new gravel team for 2023. 

According to this Yahoo Sports article, the 42 year old will be joined by men and women already on Team Movistar and in its esports program. 

Riders will begin by contesting events in Spain but are also aiming at being at the UCI's Gravel World Championships in Italy this Fall. 

Comments: So, is this where old roadies go out to pasture, or....? I think it would be easy to say that, but I think it has a way of giving the series and racing in Europe more legitimacy to the average European rider. Let's not forget that gravel racing is an American invention, at least in its current form, and traction amongst European cyclists for this genre is not anywhere near the fever pitch it is here in America.  

It also is a pathway for the UCI to grow the segment into the sort of professional stature that they are hoping it to become, with similar sponsorship opportunities and ties to the big organizers of cycling events in Europe. "Grassroots" organizing simply is far too difficult there in Europe and this will be how gravel racing is done in the future there, if it continues at all. So, expect similar types of racing, eventually, that you are familiar with on the paved side, if this takes off over there. 

Image courtesy of Panaracer
Panaracer Announced New Limited Edition Colors:

By now you probably are aware that Panaracer releases some colored rubber tires every year. This year's colors are Sunset Orange and Turquoise. You can get these in three models, the Gravel King SK, Gravel King SS, or Gravel King.  Sidewalls are in black or brown. Widths run from 32mm, 38mm, or 43mm. Price is $59.99 each.

You can check them out here

Comments: Is this the bicycle fanatic's version of Easter eggs? I mean, they released these on Thursday before Easter. Anyway..... Yeah....these are not my cuppa. Maybe this turns you on? Okay, I'm alright with that, but I find colored tires to be an acquired taste in most cases. Now, I would take a hard look at white or a cream colored tire. Maybe that red that Ritchey used to use, or maybe the Michelin green, so I'm not 100% against the idea. I just don't care for these at all. That's maybe just me....

I will say that I think the slick being named "Gravel King" is pretty goofy. For my money, the SK is where it is at, but those center blocks can have a tendency to fling gravel, so you have to watch out for that around anyone that rides a Gravel King SK.

That's it for this week. have a great Easter Weekend!

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