A lot of gear comes across our desks here at Pinkbike. Check Out is an occasional round up of everything our tech editors have gotten their hands on. Sometimes it's products we're doing long-term tests on, other times it's stuff we're stoked on but don't have time to fully review. And, sometimes it's crazy shit someone sent us unsolicited and we're having a laugh.
Bontrager's new RSL carbon handlebar / stem combo is a guaranteed conversation starter, and it also adds some space-age flair to any bike. I'd even go so far as to say these are some of the best looking bars currently on the market. While the concept isn't exactly new, it's still a polarizing design due to the fact that adjusting handlebar roll isn't possible, and there's no easy stem switching. On the flip side, the integration allows for fairly significant weight savings, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 grams compared to a high-end carbon bar and aluminum stem combo.
The $350 price tag also isn't exactly budget friendly, but there are also carbon bars and stems out there that, when purchased together, would have a similar final price. Bontrager offers two versions – the 750mm XC-oriented model with a 13-degree stem drop, and the trail-oriented version that comes in an 820mm length and a 0-degree rise stem.
I've been using trail version, trimmed down to 780mm. Installation was straightforward, just don't forget to use the included aluminum spacer that sits on the inside of the stem to help cinch everything down. On my scale the bars weigh 274 grams, or 24-grams more than Bontrager's stated weight. (I have a feeling their weight is without the aluminum spacer, but I included it since it's a necessary part.)
Out on the trail, the bars feel, well, normal. They're stiff without feeling uncomfortably harsh, and the rise and sweep isn't that far off from what I prefer. However, they also don't exactly match my current preference, and that's what's ultimately going to be the deciding factor when it comes to who purchases these. For me, they're very close, but not quite in line with what I'm looking for - I'd love to see a higher rise version added into the lineup, and maybe one with a little more backsweep and a 40mm stem length.
If the 45mm or 35mm stem length, 27.5mm rise, 7-degree backsweep and 6-degree upsweep match the numbers you're after, then the RSL bars could be a good weight saving option.
I know, I know, $60 is a lot of money for a long sleeve t-shirt, especially one that's a relatively boring grey like this one. However, most long sleeve shirts simply aren't this comfortable. 7Mesh's Elevate shirt uses a polyester / lyocell fabric that gives it a perfectly-broken-in feel right out of the box, with a fit that provides plenty of room for movement without being too baggy.
It compresses small enough to fit into a hip pack or jersey pocket, and I brought it with me on dozens of spring rides when it was nice to have an extra layer for the descents. It's held up well, especially considering the number of blackberry bushes I've brushed past. The grey fabric is looking a little dingy in spots, but that might have more to do with my sub-par laundry skills than anything else. Overall, this is a great, low-key layer that works well on and off the bike.
Specialized Bridge Comp & Power Pro with Mimic
Specialized Power Pro
Specialized Bridge Comp
Power Pro Details • 143 or 155mm widths • Hollow titanium rails • Elaston foam, carbon fiber shell • Weight: 236 grams • Price: $275 USD
Specialized have brought their 'Mimic' technology to more saddles this season, including the Bridge Comp and the Power Pro Elaston. Originally developed for Specialized's women's-specific saddles as a way to eliminate the firmer edges that can be present on saddles with cut-outs, Mimic uses a layer of soft foam with another layer of memory foam on top to allow the saddle to conform to riders' soft tissue
I've been using both the Bridge Comp and the Power Pro Elaston over the last few months. The Bridge didn't work as well as I'd hoped – I like the shape, but the padding was a little too soft, and the overall level of comfort wasn't enough to unseat Ergon's SM Enduro as my current favorite.
It was a different story with the Power Pro, though. I've been thoroughly impressed with this saddle – the short profile may look strange at first, but it's been working very well for me. The padding is comfortable without being overly squishy, and on a recent 7-hour, chamois-free ride I didn't have any discomfort at all.
Of course, saddles are a matter of personal preference, which is why Specialized offers a 30-day money back guarantee.
Bluegrass Seamless B&S D3O
• Removable D3O back and shoulder padding • EN 1621-2:2014 certified • $300 USD
It's bike park and racing season in the Northern Hemisphere, which means lots of riders are going faster and higher than ever. Bluegrass' Seamless back protector ($300 USD) is designed to provide back and shoulder protection for those moments when things don't go exactly as planned. The bulk of the protection is provided by a D3O back pad that's removable for washing. Additional D3O padding is located at each shoulder; Bluegrass also offers a version of this without shoulder protection that retails for $225 USD.
The word 'seamless' in the product name is a little misleading, because technically there are seams where the arms and the pocket for the back protector is sewn on, but I understand what Bluegrass was going for – the well ventilated chest, side, and back panels are all seam-free. The cut of the lower hem is longer than usual to make sure it stays tucked into your pants or riding shorts.
When it comes to sizing, there are only two options – S/M or L/XL. I'm wearing the L/XL in the above photos, which fits decently, although I think the S/M would have been a better choice for my skinny, 5'11” height. On the trail, the range of motion is excellent, and the back and shoulder pads are barely noticeable when riding. It's not bulky either, which makes it easier to decide to put it on for bike park or shuttle laps. Technically you could pedal with it on too, although that back pad does make things warmer than they would be with just a regular t-shirt jersey on – it all comes down to assessing what type of ride you're embarking on and how much protection you want.