Trails were bursting with fragrant lupine at mid-elevations above Ketchum, Idaho’s basecamp for Impact Sun Valley, the inaugural Crank Tank bicycle media event. Cycling scribes from various outlets arrived to test a train of new bicycles and gear, top-notch products designed to maximize on and off-road self-pedaled fun. E-bikes were the talk of the event, but a collection of standard issue mountain and gravel bikes were also on hand, featuring the likes of Specialized, Moots, and Turner. Here’s a recap of some of the best gear Mtbr tested during the event.
First line of defense against omnipresent crash potential, the helmet fit immediately with little need for adjustment, especially the straps. In the field we popped up the visor to maximize the scenery, and even the bumpiest terrain didn’t knock it down. It has good occipital and temporal protection, adding confidence on the trail. With straps that can also be removed to wash, or replace, this brain bucket should last a long time. More info at www.rudyproject.com.
Photochromatic and quick-adjusting for ever changing light, the Sintryx are perfect for riding through a forested trail blasted with sunlight and shaded with trees. The Sintryx glasses are the complement to the Protera helmet. Like the Tralyx, the frames have the copper beryllium inserts to allow the customization of nose and ear pieces. Lens changes are quicker than earlier iterations of changeable lenses. Tralyx lenses come in slim and XL to accommodate different faces. Venting for lightness and maintained visibility in the heat keeps the view clear. These shades are a one-stop shop with maximum adjustability. Construction uses real screws as with prescription glasses for easy replacement and to swap pieces. More info at www.rudyproject.com.
Swiftwick’s signature olefin fibers wick moisture and grippy threads in the toe box and heel area to deliver fresh (stink free) performance. We wore a pair for several days without a thought to laundering other than a fresh water rinse. They stayed comfortable. The company also gives more than a nod to sustainability and community. Durability reduces consumption. Made entirely in the USA reduces transportation externalities. The merino is domestic and olefin requires less energy to produce than most synthetics. Even Swiftwick scrap is used for secondary products like blankets for those in need. More info at swiftwick.com.
This is truly a Swiss Army knife bike and we didn’t even know there was a swap box on the down tube for flat repair until the ride was over. (The head tube compartment for tools is also very cool.) The recently launched bike hugged the trail (a newly constructed flow trail at Galena Lodge). The sidearm design that gives the rear triangle its improved performance is eye-catching and feels right when underway. The frame is designed to also accommodate long-travel swaps. The thinking and engineering is reminiscent of Maverick positive path technology, technology that makes sense for how a bike functions on the trail. The logic and effort to solve a problem and make improvement is remarkable. Another bonus are bumpers on the chainstay that interrupt the sine wave of chain slap in a simple and clever way. Riders are treated to a new level of smooth and quiet riding over rough terrain. More info at www.specialized.com.
We rode the Orbea Carbon GAIN, which was a remarkable experience being new to electric pedal assist road bikes. Previously, our tester here had only ridden a jury-rigged fat bike with a throttle, the Bain of NYC bike lanes. A press of a simple button on the GAIN top tube engages the quiet rear hub motor. Riding familiar Sun Valley roads and a bit of gravel felt very much like a typical bike ride, but three levels of boost changes what is possible. Thoughts flew immediately to riding in the Pyrenees with companions of different riding and fitness levels. To date, a close-knit group tour has been inconceivable, but the easy-to-employ technology invites new prospects for social riding. More info at www.orbea.com.
The new Moots Routt RSL was a choice ride for gravel to Galena Lodge. Old-school titanium single speed riders and steel cyclocross fans alike will find this to be a quiver killer. Decked with perfect electronic shifting the Routt is a bike and set up that could serve as a last bike to own. It was very comfortable and capable on a rough and sometimes loose gravel trail. Steady and durable, its 3D printed rear dropouts are impressive examples of how to gracefully integrate the latest engineering and material technology to improve what is tried and true. Moots Routt RSL complete bikes start at $9099 and range upward depending on preferred build kit and frame options. More info at moots.com.
Linked to a German Brose motor in the bottom bracket, the Levo blew our tester away while riding up trails typically only ridden down due to steepness. The experience was a mind trip because muscle memory from an analogue (acoustic) bike said we shouldn’t be riding so fast up the terrain. One of the notions about applying the technology to the trail is how it changes perception of one’s place in nature and topography. The trickiest bits were getting the bike going from a standstill in front of an obstacle since it’s a heavier machine, but the walk-assist module helped get the bike to better starting points. More info at www.specialized.com.
The Desperado top is a garment cut for the meat of the journey. It’s light and comfortable with apparently magic seams they are so imperceptible. We wore the jersey for two days straight and it still felt (and smelled) fresh. It’s a go-to jersey for an expedition. More info at 7mesh.com.
To learn more about Impact Sun Valley head to cranktank.net.