Blue is back, with plans to expand product line

WILMINGTON, Del. (BRAIN) — Blue Competition Cycles is back in business and looking to expand its product line in the coming years, its CEO told BRAIN. After nearly two seasons off the market, Blue recently received its first shipment of bikes from Taiwan since the brand emerged from an unsuccessful merger with the now-bankrupt Divine Cycling Group.

Gore Bike Wear Fusion Cross 2.0 Windstopper AS jacket review

Gore Bike Wear may be priced at the premium end of the market, but the investment usually pays off because of its garments quality materials and attention to detail.

The Fusion Cross 2.0 uses Gore’s water resistant and windproof Windstopper Active Shell material, and has some nice touches, such as the zipped Napoleon pocket with captive lens wipe hidden neatly within.

The cut is very good, but on the slim-fitting side. It slots in neatly between a full-on roadie cut and baggier trail fit, with pre-shaped arms that rest comfortably when in a riding position. There are underarm pit vents to help control airflow, plenty of subtle reflective detailing and reinforcement on the shoulders to prevent premature wear from backpack straps.

The waist isn’t elasticated, and nor does it have silicone grippers, so it occasionally rides up, especially when it gets tangled with waist straps. The velcro straps on the wrists can be securely cinched down, but we prefer the Neoprene cuffs of Gore’s own Alp-X 2.0 softshell, which do a much better job of sealing the gaps for less bulk.

That warmer, slightly insulating jacket also highlights another issue with the Fusion Cross. When it does give up the battle with rain and wets out, it’s not particularly insulating and the material tends to leech heat from your body rather than help keep it in. On warmer, dry days it also gets quite sweaty.

It excels in cold, dry conditions, where it cuts out wind chill effectively. It is also very hardwearing and the quality is beyond reproach.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.


Trail Tech: Using 10-speed chains with SRAM XX1 and XO1

Question: I’ve read on various Internet forums where riders are using 10-speed chains with SRAM XX1. Can you confirm that it’s possible to run a 10-speed chain on SRAM’s 11-speed mountain groups?

Possible? Yes. Prudent? Well, read on…

Why it’s possible

Some of the cleverest design elements of SRAM’s 11-speed mountain groups are also the most subtle. Take for example the cassette: SRAM didn’t attempt to cram 11 cogs in the same space previously occupied by 8, 9, and 10-speed cassettes. In these three previous cog additions, the chain as well as the teeth of the cassette were made increasingly narrow to fit onto the freehub body.?

In the case of XX1 and XO1, the smallest 10 cogs occupy the same space as a 10-speed cassette. The 42-tooth cog is essentially dished inward from the actual freehub body. (If you look at an XX1 or XO1 cassette installed on a wheel in profile you’ll see what I mean.) As a result of “cheating space” from the cassette, the teeth on SRAM’s 11-speed mountain bike groups are only marginally narrower, as is the spacing, compared with its 10-speed groups.

Last summer, I was riding a test bike equipped with XX1 when I managed to wedge a branch in the drivetrain. The stick won; the PC-XX1 lost. I shortened the chain and limped home. I had a race the next day and was in a bind. I replaced the shortened PC-XX1 with a properly sized PC-1071 I had in my toolbox.

The 10-speed chain shifted through all 11 cogs just fine, though I removed it and installed a PC-XX1 at the earliest possible opportunity. Although it worked okay and the differences in spacing and tolerances are “only marginally” different, those margins matter.

Why it’s not the best idea

Many of the riders running 10-speed chains on SRAM’s 11-speed mountain groups are likely going this route for one of two reasons:

1. They have an existing stockpile of 10-speed chains to burn through.

2. Many 10-speed chains can be found cheaper than SRAM’s XX1 offerings.

In both cases price is the primary concern, not performance. I can understand this; like any other high-end mountain bike group, SRAM XX1 and XO1 come with a premium price tag. But if you’re going to spend the money, it’s prudent to take care of your investment.

As one would expect, SRAM cautions against running anything other than a PC-XX1 with a XX1 or XO1 drivetrain.

The difference in the external width between 10-speed and 11-speed chains is very slight, but could be enough to cause premature wear to the cassette. You are essentially attempting to save money on a chain while risking the longevity of a very costly cassette.

Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. A 10-speed chain can work in a pinch, but the risk of premature wear to one of the most expensive parts of the drivetrain is worth avoiding. Replace your worn or broken PC-XX1 chain with another one.


Bike brands: savior of the pro peloton?

From the magazine Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the March 1 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. By Nicole Formosa WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA (BRAIN) — Bob Burbank refers to the days of Mario Cipollini and the Cannondale-sponsored Saeco race team often as he discusses the brand’s latest venture, Cannondale Pro Cycling.  That sense of camaraderie and fun represented through a personable and reachable character like Cipollini is a dynamic that Burbank, Cannondale’s general manager, hopes to bring back to the sport with the new title-sponsored team and Peter Sagan, the 22-year-old breakout sprinter who became known last year for his quirky finish line celebrations in the Amgen Tour of California and Tour de France.

Lock innovators look to Kickstarter

VANCOUVER, BC (BRAIN) — continues to be a popular tool for innovators in the bike industry, who increasingly are using the crowd-funding site to complement other investment possibilities. The latest example is the Interlock, a cunning cable lock that slides into a seatpost, providing the user with a streamlined lock that is always ready for use. The proposed product comes from Vancouver-based Solgaard Design. The new company’s Kickstarter strategy is as savvy as the product itself. The company hopes to raise $48,000 through Kickstarter to put the post into production, said founder Adrian Solgaard Janzen. Janzen said he already has potential investors in the wings, but is waiting to conclude the Kickstarter campaign before bringing them in. The  Kickstarter campaign  launched Friday and by Tuesday morning had raised nearly $10,000.

Stats: 29ers, Internet sales shake up market

Editor’s note: This story was part of BRAIN’s annual compilation of industry statistics in the July 1 issue. To read related stories and for full charts, download the PDF

From the magazine: Courting China

As middle-class incomes rise and consumerism abounds, Western brands feel out future opportunity in the fast-changing country. By Nicole Formosa SHANGHAI, China—Nowhere in Shanghai is the pull of European and American brands more prevalent than the famed Nanjing Road East pedestrian mall. The new glass-walled Apple store, the third location in Shanghai and the biggest in China, is constantly packed with shoppers and gawkers as security guards keep watch outside.

IBD Summit wraps up in Monterey

MONTEREY, CA (BRAIN)—Owners and managers from 38 of the industry’s biggest-volume stores began heading back Thursday evening and Friday morning following two days of seminars and training with peers and hearing from industry outsiders and business experts on the topics of customer service, profitability, consumer trends, succession planning and new retail opportunities at the first IBD Summit. The conference was organized and hosted by Interbike and Sea Otter Classic’s Frank Yohannan

Best base layers for cycling

Riding in winter can be a clothing challenge but it’s essential to get it right as this can make the difference between staying out all day and going home with the shivers. Base layers are designed to be worn next to the skin and help to stop you getting cold not by adding warmth, but by taking away moisture. 

There’s a base layer for every rider and every budget but the classic close-fit base with a killer fabric and immaculate construction is still hard to beat. Here’s our pick of the best base layers we’ve tested this winter.

Best cycling base layers

1 Gore Bike Wear Base Layer Turtleneck



Verdict: The classic winter base layer with bike-perfect fit and outstanding performance

Gore base layer turtleneck:

This is a classic base layer, designed to be worn tight, next to the skin. There are no bells and whistles and it feels suspiciously light, but don’t let that put you off – it’s all about the fabric and the fit. Knowing that it’s polypropylene, we were expecting a synthetic handle but the feel is actually more silky. 

We were surprised too by how warm this top is, and although we pushed its wicking abilities to the limit on warmer autumn days, it never felt waterlogged. With just the right combination of fabric, fit and functionality, the Gore base layer is something of a revelation. It actually feels like you’re not wearing anything at all, which is why it’s our overall winner. /

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Gore Base Layer Turtleneck

=2 Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm Shield 1.2



Verdict: For general winter use we’ve found nothing better at the price

Nike pro combat shield mock 1.2 shirt:

This super-fitting technical long-sleeve base uses Nike’s compressive Dri-fit fabric complemented by mesh underarm panel detailing. All the seams are flatlock stitched and the high neck keeps chills at bay. The soft, fleecy material traps warm air very effectively so this top is best saved for the chilliest of days.

The panels are shaped to stay tight on your body without constricting your movements, and flat stitching prevents any chafing. The fabric isn’t only very supportive it’s also quick to transfer moisture away from the skin. It has the pleasing side-effect of making you look more toned than usual.

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Nike Pro Combat Shield 1.2

=2 Icebreaker LS Sprint Crewe



Verdict: Superb quality merino wool base that’s worth the investment

Icebreaker ls sprint crewe:

The Icebreaker Sprint may be the most expensive of the merino bases on test but it sets the gold standard through its combination of fabric, cut and construction. The merino wool is substantial but very fine, and even after multiple washings still looks new. The seams are finished to the very highest standard and so flat as to be unnoticeable – even though there are more of them than usual due to extra side panels.

It’s these panels that give the top a better shape than most. It sits close but not tight and moves without bunching up. We’re not huge fans of thumb loops but the ones on this top do actually work because the sleeves are long enough that you can wear them without them pulling. Our only gripe? Taller wearers might need a tad more body length. 

=2 Nalini Trail



Verdict: An unmatched-for-comfort seamless construction with outstanding performance

Nalini trail:

We found it hard to fault the Nalini Trail. The space-age looks might throw you at first but they come courtesy of a seamless construction that uses a variable knit technology to combine warmth, ventilation and fit in one smooth package. It’s amazing how much difference just removing side seams can make.

Where this top goes one step further is combining that with different knit weights and densities. The fit is very close, which means it moves with you with no feeling of restriction. We stayed warm, dry and hardly noticed we were wearing it. We’ll be relying on this one through the colder days of winter. /

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Nalini Trail base layer

Value winner: Altura Thermocool Long Sleeve



Verdict: Well specified, well made base that delivers high level performance at a value price

 altura thermocool long sleeve:

Altura are doing a stunning job of producing kit that both looks and performs like it should cost a lot more, and the Thermocool is one such piece. It uses a variable knit, with different densities of fabric in different areas depending on the position on the body. The result is a top that’s very close fitting but doesn’t feel it, and one that moves with you.

The flexibility through the shoulders and arms is fantastic. The way it’s knitted also means there are no side seams, and the overall result is one of extreme comfort. Our only niggle is that even though overall length is good, the hem has a tendency to ride up, so you need to tuck it in well.

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Altura Thermocool base layer

Runners up

Capo Pursuit



Verdict: On the coldest frozen days you may well reach for something heavier but for the majority of riding this is ample

Capo pursuit:

Capo’s wool base layer combines full merino construction with minimal, flatlocked seams. The fabric is remarkably stretchy and form fitting, and very, very fine. The fit is like a second skin: incredibly comfortable and remarkably warming for its minimal weight. Its lightness means you could use the Pursuit year round without fuss.

Helly Hansen Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip



Verdict: A blend of polypropylene and merino wool that delivers great cold weather performance

Helly hansen warm freeze:

Helly Hansen’s classic stripy-sleeved Lifa top is something most of us grew up with – hell, we have a sneaking suspicion that it was the original base layer. The Warm Freeze takes that original technology – a polypropylene yarn – and mixes it with merino. The polypropylene layer that sits next to the skin wicks moisture away very effectively and dries fast enough that we never felt soaked. 

The outer merino, meanwhile, is lovely to wear, feels very warm and stops things getting too up close and personal after extended wear. It’s the best of both worlds. The Warm Freeze is designed for sub-zero temperatures and we’d keep it for very cold days when the long back, high collar and close fitting cuffs contribute to excellent overall warmth.

Vangard Windflex 


star: star

Verdict: Expensive, but adaptable and high performing

Vangard windflex:

With a full windproof front mated to a highly structured fit, the Vangard is one of the best cold weather base layers available. The fit through the shoulders, arms and midriff is close to compression wear.

The lighter ribbed fabric holds in plenty of warmth but is still light enough to draw away moisture. We’ve used the Windflex with just a softshell on milder days, and under a jersey on really cold rides.

X-Bionic Energizer Round Neck



Verdict: Spooky science at work.

X-Bionic energizer round neck:

This might be the craziest-looking construction we’ve ever seen but it really works. The variable knit fabric gives a very close fit but unlike many base layers that are this tight, the X-Bionic doesn’t ride up. The science bit is the 3D-BionicSphere System, which looks like sections of small pleats and is designed to cool you down when you’re getting hot and keep you warm when you’re cold. Similar pleats are situated on the elbows for extra warmth.

The emphasis is very much on not cooling too fast. The Energizer feels reassuringly warm when you put it on and we weren’t aware of the pleats against our skin. You can feel the heat build as you work and then very quietly it just dissipates and you feel strangely serene and comfortable.

Berghaus Active Thermal Long Sleeve Zip Neck Tee



Verdict: Easy-fitting base that’s substantial enough to double up as a jersey

Berghaus active thermal long sleeve zip neck tee:

This is another of the more substantial base layers that, for all but the coldest weather, doesn’t need a mid-layer to keep you warm underneath your jacket. It has classic ‘outdoor’ styling that looks much sharper once on than we’d expected. The shoulder line is excellent and gives good movement so that the back doesn’t hike up with every twitch of your arms.

The fabric has a grid pattern on the inside – this is something to look for as it usually means good wicking performance along with fast drying, and that proved to be the case here. It’s not sleekly sexy but there’s little wrong with this base layer and it’ll double up as a casual jersey come spring, making it excellent value.

Endura Transmission


Endura transmission:

Verdict: The Transmission comes with a great cut and excellent fabric at a real value-for-money price

Endura transmission:

Endura’s Transmission is made using polypropylene – the old-fashioned stuff that worked great but tended to stink after five minutes’ wear and had a tendency to melt on radiators. It’s fallen out of favour, but those in the know have always rated its superior moisture transfer and fast drying. 

It wasn’t just the fabric that cut it; the articulated design and its multi-panel construction is something you usually see in more expensive styles. It makes for an excellent fit that moves with you without bunching or riding up. The flatlocked seams, another more spendy touch, make this very comfortable. This isn’t just a good base layer for the money – it’s a good base layer full stop.

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Endura Transmission base layer

Fox First Layer L/S Jersey



Verdict: Easy fitting base for underpinning baggy jerseys – and well priced

Fox first layer l/s jersey:

The first thing to say about the First Layer is that we’d expected something more flammably synthetic feeling at this price point but it’s surprisingly smooth and wearable. The fit is easier than a traditional base and there’s lots of movement through the shoulders which, combined with the longer length and stretchy fabric, makes it super-comfortable, with no cold spots.

Because it isn’t ultra close fitting the wicking isn’t as fiercely efficient as some but it dries fast and we like it in combination with baggier jerseys. There’s nothing fancy about this top but we found we just liked riding in it. Because it isn’t tight we’ve also worn it alone as more of a long-sleeve technical T-shirt, making it versatile and well priced. /

Howies NBL Light LS



Verdict: Stylish base layer with an excellent cut and merino performance

Howies nbl light ls:

Opinion on the feel of different qualities of merino can be fiercely divided – everyone has their favourite. But Howies’ base layer was universally liked, with an almost cottony handle that’s light to wear but hefty enough to feel instantly warm. Construction quality is good, with a heat-transfer neck label and flat-locked seams.

The cut is close, with a slim profile enhanced by a multi-panel design, but it isn’t boy band tight so it looks good worn alone. Shaped panels mean you should get good movement even though the cut is close and that’s the case with the NBL. It’s quietly good and we wore it for an embarrassing number of days both on and off the bike before it came close to needing a wash.

Mavic Equipe LS



Verdict: Great combo of high performance fabric and cycle-specific cut

Mavic equipe:

The Equipe owes something to Star Trek for its styling, but pack away your pointy ears because the cut is very definitely bike-specific. The high collar sits in just the right place when you’re in a forward riding position and the articulation of the shoulders and sleeves combined with the longer back means the fit just works. It’s not an obvious difference compared to other base layers but there’s a sense of it feeling immediately right when you put it on.

The honeycomb knit pattern is designed to disperse moisture more effectively so that the fabric dries faster – and it’s just as well that it does, because this top does wick well. Fortunately there’s an X-Static anti-bacterial treatment to make sure all those sweaty dealings don’t lose you friends – and it works. The only downside with the fabric is that it snags easily.

Pearl Izumi Transfer LS



Verdict: Great fabric, great cut, great performance

Pearl izumi transfer ls:

The Transfer doesn’t have instant shelf appeal and the fabric has a hard edge that doesn’t feel like it will wear well. But once you put it on the inner surface is smooth and actually very comfortable. Wicking is brutally efficient and the Transfer dries out fast – probably because that textured exterior disperses moisture well.

It has the flat-locked seams you’d expect at this price – the contrast stitching on this otherwise blindingly white top makes it surprisingly wearable – plus the rear hem is dropped low to give great coverage at the back. This isn’t a shouty top but it’s one that, by virtue of an on-the-money cut and no-nonsense hard-working fabric, we find ourselves wearing time and time again. /

How we tested the latest base layers

As well as trying to ride the same trails in the same weather conditions, we tried to replicate the same test conditions for each top by wearing the same waterproof jacket in order to give us an idea of how effectively they wicked, how fast they dried and how quickly we cooled after exertion. Once ridden we also employed the ‘chuck it in the washer’ test to see how well the fabrics stood up – high performance items are less lovely if a momentary slip of the programme dial renders something unwearable. 

Wicking performance was obviously of key importance, but we also individually scored against fit, the quality of the construction and value for money. The latter isn’t just about the price but, for example, if an item is above average price but delivers superior quality, better-shaped construction detail and better fit, it’ll still score well on value. Individual scores are then rolled up to provide one overall score – although that’s still not us done. We cross-check and benchmark key points to ensure that the scores make relative sense too.

What to look for

By wicking sweat from the surface of your skin, a good base layer prevents the cooling that occurs through evaporation. The moisture is held in the outer layer of the fabric where it can gradually disperse through your jersey and/or jacket.  Some base layers are designed primarily for wicking, some will add warmth too. Look for the word ‘thermal’ in the description and run your hand over the inside. If it’s brushed (soft and fuzzy) then it’ll be warmer (and feel comfortingly cosy on cold mornings). 

Fit is crucial to the performance of a base layer – for it to work best it needs to touch your skin. There are some tops that are easier fitting, more like a jersey, but for the best functionality it needs to be close fitting. Designers can create that fit using either stretch fabric or articulated panels – or a combination of the two. In our experience the combo option works best to create a top you can’t feel, but in all cases check the arms move freely forward without bunching, there’s enough room across the shoulders and plenty of coverage at the back.

Merino wool is superb at regulating temperature – it warms you when you’re cold and cools you when you’re hot. It has a natural wicking ability and you can wear it for much longer before it takes on an evil pong. The downside? It takes longer to dry. Synthetics wick ferociously well and also dry fast. But even though you can now get anti-bacterial treatments that help the whiff factor, they do get smelly. We like both, and pick and mix depending on ride plans. 

This feature is compiled from articles that were originally published in Mountain Biking UK, What Mountain Bike, Cycling Plus and Triathlon Plus magazines.

Swiss e-bike maker takes on financial partner

HUTTWIL, Switzerland (BRAIN) Jan 30, 12:32 MT— EGS Investment has acquired a 40 percent share in Swiss e-bike manufacturer Biketec AG, maker of the popular Flyer electric bikes. EGS Investment Ltd is a subsidiary of the Ernst Goehner Foundation, a trust named after the late Swiss entrepreneur Ernst Goehner that funds cultural, social, environmental and educational projects. Biketec’s shareholders had been evaluating potential funding partners for some time in order to keep up with rapid growth and ensure the company’s long-term independence.