Safer and faster? It sounds like a dream for cyclists, and it might be true with these four stylish new products. They not only claim to help reduce distractions and improve visibility and handling but also deliver better aerodynamics, often the key factor in squeezing more speed out of your ride.
Zipp Firestrike wheels: Super-high-end wheels, popular among Ironman triathletes, claim a smoother ride and better handling and aerodynamics due to an extra-wide, rounded profile with dimples and ceramic bearings.
Likes: Zipp engineers offer wheel aficionados a revelation: Narrow isn’t necessarily more aero. Several years ago, they found that sidewinds flow faster around a rim that has a gradually rounded outside-diameter than around a squared corner. The rim has a silicon carbide surface that they say stops better in wet weather. The wider tires used on this wider rim naturally absorb more shock and are more stable in turns, especially during extreme leaning. Finally, a dimpled surface causes less turbulence (by keeping air attached longer), and ceramic bearings make for less rolling resistance.
Dislikes: The stratospheric price, of course. To save a bit, check Zipp’s Firecrest, which pioneered the round rim shape four years ago. Price: Front wheel, $1,575 to $1,625; rear wheel, $1,925 to $1975.
Helios handlebars: High-tech cellphone-connected handlebars with a built-in, forward-facing, 500-lumen LED head light in the stem-clamp section and built-in, rear-facing, multi-color LED taillights on the ends of the bars. Likes: Not only are you safer, because you can’t lose or forget your lights anymore, but the integrated lights also don’t degrade your aerodynamics, as regular bolt-on lights do. The headlight provides car headlight-quality illumination. The bar-end LED taillights become blinking five-second turn signals by pressing a button on either side of the stem. A GPS chip embedded in the bars combines with the Helios Connect app on your smartphone to let you track the location of a stolen or misplaced bike with Google maps and receive turn-by-turn navigation cues. Tthe bar ends blink when you need to turn. A fully charged battery is supposed to last nine hours on the brightest setting. Dislikes: None. Price: $279. ridehelios.com
Speedplay Zero Aero Walkable Cleats: These road-biking shoes have a built-in rubberized tread that covers the cleat, allowing a roadie to walk normally without the slip-inducing metal-asphalt contact. The streamlined cleat profile, with a golf-ball-like dimpled surface, is said to improve the aerodynamics of the Zero Pedal System.
Likes: It’s a simple idea and about time. Walking in road-bike shoes, which you must do at every post-ride Starbucks stop, has been an occupational hazard for decades. The rubber tread surrounding the cleat adds traction and greatly reduces the risks. It also protects the cleats from wearing out. It fits all standard three-hole and four-hole shoes and is compatible with all Zero models.
Dislikes: None. Price: $55 (yellow and green colors) to $65 (red). $20 for replacement covers. Plugs for extended walking cost $7.
Recon Jet: Polarized sunglasses with a built-in GPS, point-of-view camera and a mini-monitor adjacent to the right lens, just below your normal line of sight. They work with a control button on the right arm and a smartphone-paired app to relay data such as speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, maps and turn-by-turn directions, at a glance.
Likes: Very handy for riding and running, because you can check your stats without breaking form or even turning your head. The simple touch-controls on the arm, a two-sided button and a tiny finger scroll pad make it easy to take still photos and videos and adjust music volume and music selection. The controls and setup are easy to figure out in 10 minutes. Install the Re-con Engage app on your phone, then sync it with Bluetooth. Although heavy at 5 ounces, double or triple the weight of regular sunglasses, it didn’t feel cumbersome.
Dislikes: Although other testers didn’t complain, I had trouble seeing part of the screen and experienced double vision with some of the text. The monitor position should be adjustable so that you can position it to fit your face. Also, while it’s a huge improvement over looking down at a cyclometer or a wrist monitor, it still momentarily defocuses your eyes from the road. Price: $699.