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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Quick Spins – May 28, 2007

Edited by James Huang

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Welcome to Quick Spins, an all new section within Cyclingnews' tech coverage were we put some of the smaller items that land on the tech desk to the test.

Ergon grips - mmm, comfy

Ergon grips look different from other grips
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Invariably, the response to these rather odd-looking grips from first-time viewers was the same on just about every occasion:

"[with puzzled look on face] What on earth are those things?"

After the requisite place-their-hands-on-the-grips test, though, the conversation immediately changed to:

"[with now surprised look on face] Those feel awesome; where can I get a set?!"

The ergonomic grip idea is hardly new: some may remember Sampson's version from about a decade or so ago (and we're sure there have been many others), but Germany-based Ergon seems to have finally nailed down the formula. Each Ergon grip (barring the GE1 model) features a prominent 'wing' that distributes load over a much broader portion of the palm than with typical round-section grips, thus reducing pressure on critical areas.

According to Ergon, conventional grips contact only about 60% of the surface area of a rider's palm. In contrast, its ergonomic grips supposedly can attain as high as 100% surface contact, and to help this along, most of the line is offered in two sizes to fit smaller or larger hands. Some models also incorporate independently adjustable integrated bar ends in either aluminum, magnesium, and even carbon fiber, and all offer secure clamp-on attachments.

Bar ends are smoothly contoured
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

The grip's unique shape definitely takes a little getting used to on the bike. Once you get over the novelty, though, the overwhelming sensation is that you're no longer paying attention to your hands at all. Long-term comfort is outstanding with little to no numbness or hot spots in the palm or fingers. Ergon doesn't even mention it, but we also found it to help with blisters, too.

The downside of all of this added comfort, however, is simply more grip than some will tolerate, and we're not talking about tire adhesion here. The additional material deadens some of the feedback and response that thin grip devotees love, and all that rubber invariably costs at the scale, too. A pair of small diameter GP1 grips weighs 208g while a set of GR2s with integrated magnesium bar ends is a rather portly 268g. In addition, the wing also somewhat limits positioning flexibility while on the bike, especially in more demanding situations.

Ergon addresses those issues with its latest "competition-oriented" GX1 model with a lighter 128g/pair weight (thanks to liberal use of lighter Kraton rubber) and a pared-down wing. Alternatively, its more conventional GE1 grip offers even more flexibility but does without the wing section entirely.

Either way, riders that experience any sort of hand discomfort should take a serious look at these things (after first making sure their bike fits properly!). Be prepared to deal with some odd looks and the occasional jeers, but just consider yourself ahead of the curve.

Weight: 128g/pair (GX1); 208g/pair (GP1); 268g (GR2 with magnesium bar ends)
Price: US$39.99 (GX1); US$29.99 (GP1 and GR2)
Pros: Absolutely superb long-term comfort, virtually eliminates hand numbness and hot spots
Cons: Somewhat heavy compared to conventional grips, limited positioning flexibility while on the bike
Cyclingnews rating: Click for key to ratings


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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Blackburn AirFix and AirShot - works in progress

Blackburn enters the CO2 inflator market
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Much like the situation in the hydration pack market, Blackburn faces an uphill battle with its CO2 inflators. As the undeniable underdog against well-established Genuine Innovations, Blackburn has to offer more, work harder, and work smarter in order to get a piece of the market pie and tries to do just that with its AirFix and AirShot models.

Both inflators are heavily stylized items with an industrial futuristic look in keeping with the rest of Blackburn's current lineup. The AirFix definitely goes with the 'offer more' route; its substantial-feeling injection molded plastic and metal body incorporates an impressive laundry list of tools, including 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm hex keys, a T25 Torx bit, chain tool, flat head screwdriver, and even a steel-cored tire lever.

In contrast, the more minimalist AirShot offers just a supplemental tire lever and single 5mm hex bit. Both inflators utilize Blackburn's excellent inflator head with a built-in pressure regulator for more controlled flow, presta/ Schrader-compatible valve, and a safety switch to prevent misfires. Both are also exclusively designed around the versatile (and relatively economical) 16g CO2 cartridge.

Outstanding head incorporates a pressure release lock
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

The inflator head is easily the highlight of both the AirFix and the AirShot, with intuitive operation and a quality look and feel thanks to the red-anodized aluminum and brass construction. Blackburn's inflators also offer a sense of solidity in the hand with their slightly larger diameter and squared-off shapes.

That solid feel also translates into a lot of bulk, though. While the AirShot body is noticeably bigger than its competition, we're somewhat willing to forgive that added volume for the excellent head and handy built-in tire lever. The AirFix, on the other hand, is not only markedly bigger, it's also surprisingly weighty at 190g, and that's not even including the requisite cartridge which tacks on yet another 50g or so.

Moreover, some of the tools on the AirFix are awkwardly positioned, making it difficult to access some bolts, or even completely impossible in some cases as we discovered on more than one occasion. The 4mm hex wrench, in particular, is almost laughable. Its matching 4mm bit length (yes, we said four) and inconvenient location on the end of the tire lever made it virtually unusable; we couldn't even loosen faceplate bolts on some stems when we tried to do a quick handlebar rotation on the road, and you can forget about making saddle adjustments on most two-bolt seatposts.

The AirFix includes a lot of tools
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Lastly, while we're with Blackburn on its 16g cartridge format, the AirShot and AirFix will only accept 16g non-threaded cartridges which are often somewhat difficult to find. The more common non-threaded 12g cartridges can be made to work in a pinch, but you won't be screwing the otherwise superb head on to your 25g Big Air canister any time soon.

Blackburn's CO2 inflators definitely show a lot of promise but could stand a little refinement and a whopping dose of compatibility. Both are also rather expensive as compared to their more capable competitors. Cost issues notwithstanding, the AirShot would be a contender if it was modified to accept a wider range of cartridges, but we'd have to recommend passing on the AirFix entirely. While it's reassuring to know that you have tools on hand when the need arises, it's simply maddening when the one you need isn't even usable.

Weight: 78g (AirShot, without cartridge); 190g (AirFix, without cartridge)
Price: US$29.99 (AirShot, with one 16g cartridge); US$39.99 (AirFix, with one 16g cartridge)
Pros: Outstanding inflator head design, squared-off bodies provide substantial grip
Cons: AirFix tools are difficult to use in real world conditions, extremely limiting cartridge compatibility, expensive
Cyclingnews rating: Click for key to ratings (AirShot); Click for key to ratings (AirFix)


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com