Bontrager has rolled up to Crankworx toting a hefty bundle of new product including several new tires, their first set of flat pedal shoes and a new helmet. Let's start with the rubber. Bontrager will soon offer their SE4 and XR4 Team Issue tubeless-ready tire in both 27.5 and 29x2.6, 27.5x2.8 and 29x3.0 tires.
The 3.0 tires are obviously aimed at backcountry riders and the 2.8-inch models are geared to the plus-size crowd. What about the 2.6-inch tires? How much demand is there for the plus-curious, 2.6-inch variety?
"We’re seeing a definite increase in demand for 2.6," says Bontrager's hard goods manager, Alex Applegate. "Very much so. It’s one of those things that people can look at and go, ‘Well, I have a 2.4, I can see where you are going with this.' But 2.6 is still an early adopter kind of product, for sure. People who are trying them out on their current bike have to check their fork and chainstay clearances. But at the end of the day, we all want comfort, compliance and more traction. If you like all those things…why not? At least give it a try."
The new Bontrager tires will be available soon.
Bontrager's apparel line has been growing by leaps and bounds of late. Still, I have to admit to being surprised by this most recent addition: the Line Pro flat-pedal shoe. R-Dog (Ryan Howard) played a role in developing the shoe, which features reinforced eyelets, a sticky Vibram sole, a lace keeper and a thermowelded "gnar guard" toe cap. Is there a clipless pedal version as well?
"Not yet," says Applegate. "It’s one thing at a time. We wanted to make sure we got this right before we jumped into that."
Getting it right, says Applegate, included experimenting with a wide range of EVA foam padding arrangements--to try and nail just the right balance of flexibility and cushioning--and dialing in the texture of the sole, to maximize grip, yet still allow for on-the-fly foot repositioning. Did Bontrager actually succeed? Who the hell knows. We'll get a pair in for testing and find out for ourselves. Flat pedals and flat pedal shoes often get dismissed as low-brow, unsophisticated products; they are anything but. This is not an easy category to jump into. It'll be interesting to see how Trek's in-house brand fares here. The Line Pro is available in three colorways.
The new Rally MIPS helmet is essentially the love child of Bontrager's current Lithos and Rally helmets. The Rally MIPS features, no surprise, a MIPS slip plane. It is, however, also a good 40 grams lighter than the current Lithos--largely due to the new Blend'r light and POV camera attachment system.
This new version of Blend'r relies on a magnet embedded in the EPS foam. The light snaps right in place and though you might imagine that a magnet wouldn't be strong enough to keep a GoPro or Bontrager's Ion light in place over rocky terrain, the company claims that it won't shake loose.
Bontrager did, however, spend a lot of time fiddling with different magnets to ensure that the attachment will detach from the helmet should you happen to smack your light or camera into a low-hanging branch. Getting "clotheslined", in other words, shouldn't be an issue here. The new $139 Rally MIPS is also better ventilated than its predecessor and features a Boa fit adjuster.