Bringing back the Cycling Cap one Domestique at a time

Review: Selle SMP Composit

27 Oct 2015 -

Saddles take time to figure out. We all have our anatomic differences and personal preferences and finding the right one requires a fair bit of research and a little bit of luck. Once you settle on a certain saddle shape, it would usually take a lot to convince you to shift and move to another shape/brand.

Such was my current experience with the Fizik Antares. The shape such a good fit that I did not consider looking for another saddle.  At least not until a chance conversation with a cycling buddy brought to light a saddle which, according to him, gave his rear end less issue than the Antares on long rides.

Enter Selle SMP.

This Italian saddle maker has been in business since 1947 and their products are based on a unique shape. They have a wide range of products which cater to different pelvis widths and padding preferences.

Browsing through their catalog, I settled on a carbon railed, carbon bodied, leather wrapped contraption called the Composit CRB. My first new saddle in almost half a decade.


The Saddle

First things first. The Composit, and most SMPs in general, are not as photogenic as a Fizik Antares. Where the Antares is looks very sharp and simple, the SMP is curvy and somewhat out of place on an angular, modern race bike. The look takes a bit of getting used to, but as previously mentioned, these design details give the SMPs their identity and their functional advantages.

Let's take them point by point:

1. The Eagle Beak nose - May as well be SMP's defining design detail. Their press materials state that this is supposed to prevent urogenital crushing. Yep, we certainly don't want our urogenitals crushed. Seriously, though, this feature is much appreciated on the drops as there is less pressure on the groin area leaning forward. Another observed plus is it's a lot easier to return to the sitting position coming from off the saddle standing efforts.

2. Curved Top - This is where the sitbones make contact. Depending on the amount of lean you take, the curve contacts different parts of the sitbones, offering relief where needed. The upward curve of the rear keeps you secure when pushing hard on the saddle.

3. Central Groove - Prevents nerve and blood vessel pinching and provides ventilation. More than anything else, this keeps you riding longer.

The Composit CRB is made with a carbon fiber body wrapped in leather. Padding is nonexsitent. Rails for our model are also in carbon fiber, saving 50 grams from the stainless steel version. The all carbon Composit CRB weighs in at 160 grams.

The leather cover is adorned with brand embroidery. While I prefer plain all-black, this is something we can with.

On The Road

What can we say? Those shape features combine to make one very comfortable saddle...shape wise that is.  One thing that immediately stands out is the lack of padding.  Of course, that is not the saddle's fault. Selle SMP offers a whole range of similarly designed saddles in different widths and different levels of padding.  If you're decided on getting the Composit, make sure you have a decent set of bibs with a great set of pads to take the sting out of road bumps.

Getting back on the subject of shape, the Composit's features really allow you to ride longer. It feels as if  only the sitbones make contact with the saddle as thigh rub is kept to a minimum and the sensitive bits have minimal contact thanks to the large groove in the middle.

As mentioned, getting your pelvic measurements is key as it will point you to  the right saddle model within the SMP range. The Composit range is suited for riders of Extra Small to Medium built.


This curvy piece of handmade Italian goodness is definitely something to try. Saddles are a personal thing but in our experience, using the Composit CRB was rewarding. Make sure you have a decent set of shorts though.

That Made In Italy thing ain't going off anytime soon.

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Review: 2015 Argon 18 Nitrogen

1 Sep 2015 - Sometime March 2015, after 9,167.3 blissful kilometers with the road aero pioneering Scott Foil, I gave in to upgraditis and decided to get a new frame.

Being an early adopter of road aero, any and all equipment I decide to purchase must be as aero as possible. It goes without saying that my next frame should be as well. To be honest, I am not really sure if it makes any difference in making my cycling any faster, but aero looks fast....and if it looks fast, it looks good. Just like a fighter plane. The aggressive looks of an aero bike is a quality in itself.

Superficial, yes. But if we want to be technical about it, aerodynamic benefits work at any speed, albeit exponentially the faster you go. The bicycle makes up 20% of a cyclist's surface area, with the cyclist himself taking up the rest of the 80 percent. Any aerodynamic efficiency against the bike's 20 percent contribution to drag should enhance performance. Yes. Memorize and repeat....memorize and repeat.

So off I went to that happy place somewhere in Pasay. In one of the shops, as if written on a movie script, I looked up to find an Argon 18 Nitrogen in my size just hanging from one of the shops' ceiling. Luck.

The first full on roadbike I had was an Argon 18 Radon and I'm quite familiar with the Canadian maker's products and quality. Getting another Argon made sense and was like a coming home of sorts.

2015 Argon Nitrogen,  Most likely in Medium/Large - Photo credit: Argon 18

The Frame

Argon 18 has extensive experience in designing aerodynamic frames. In fact, they several time trial bikes currently on offer which, along with the UCI approved Nitrogen, benefit from this experience.

Unassembled, one would be forgiven for mistaking the Nitrogen as a TT frame. It's certainly easy on the eyes. With aero features like a thick seatpost, rear wheel cutouts and aero brakes, the Nitrogen certainly has that 'fast even while on the bike stand' look. That being said, the Nitrogen looks better from sizes Medium and up. Small and Extra Small have this pinched head-tube look and the rear seat stay goes up until nearly the top tube. (We prefer it connecting to the middle of the seat tube-a la modern 2015's bikes, thank you).

The Author's Nitrogen. Right at home in the living room. Note where the seatstays start.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that Argon 18 pursued a different path in designing the Nitrogen. Argon 18 decided to use more traditional shapes in its choice of tube cross sections. Unlike most of its aero road competitors, it does not utilize a truncated airfoil or Kamm-Tail tube design. Bikes such as the road aero pioneer Scott Foil, the Trek Madone and the Canyon Aeroad all utilize the Kamm design to marry the opposing requirements of stiffness and aerodynamics.

The Nitrogen, instead, goes with long and thin teardrop airfoil shapes which can be seen in the slender seat stays and the seatpost. Curiously, the downtube cross section is neither Kamm-Tail nor teardrop but is of oval shape. The seatpost is reversible; you get either 72-76.5 degrees or 78 degrees.

Aero setback seatpost.

That's an Italian Flag there. Just saying.
Other wind-cheating features include the TRP v-brakes which are flat and are hidden from the wind by virtue of being mounted on the aft ends of the fork and chainstays. Keen observers will note that the rear seatstays no longer connected by a bridge as the brakes are mounted directly on the stays.

Front V-Brakes. Hidden from the wind.

Rear TRP V-Brakes. No seatstay bridge.

Also, aerodynamically shaped headset spacer caps are provided in several different heights to help guide air around smoothly in this area. Brake and shifter cables are internally routed; de facto nowadays for any modern top tier bike. The rear wheel arc eats into the lower rear seat tube section, shielding the anterior wheel edge from the wind. We used 25mm Continental GP4000S' tires there without any clearance issues.

Headset spacer cover. Aerodynamic, of course.
Wind tunnel test results from Argon suggest that they have created an aerodynamically sound frame. Second only to the Cervelo S5 in terms of overall performance at multiple yaw angles. Of particular note is the Cervelo's performance at 0 degrees (head on wind), and how both the S5 and Nitrogen both leave the rest of the pack behind at this angle.

A Nitrogen frame in Medium weighs in at 960 grams.  It's not gonna win any weight weenie contest with this figure but it's still far from being considered porky....just don't challenge an Emonda at the scales. Unfortunately, we were not able to put our XS size frame on the scales because of the rush to upgrade.

Rear wheel eats nicely into the lower seat tube. 25C tires shown.
On The Road

The first thing which stood out with the Nitrogen was its comfort. Having been used to the Scott Foil, whose ride may be described as harsh, riding the Nitrogen is a welcome relief.  Enough so that it brings back memories of the Cannondale Supersix HM which was (and still is) my bike of choice for rougher road surfaces.

Handling is right about average for a modern carbon bike which is good. Yes, bikes have progressed to that point where they all mostly track like a diving falcon on steroids. Compared to the Foil though, the Nitrogen gives up half a point on this category. So too with stiffness. Whereas the Foil was designed to cut and thrust, the Nitrogen is more of a cruiser, happier with zipping along at high speed than engaging the next chicane. But this does not at all mean it can't!

What did surprise was the braking power. Yes, it's that good. Even better than the Dura Ace BR-9000 units we had installed in the Foil, the TRP-Argon units grip so strong that you almost feel scared that your carbon wheel brake surface might just light up and flame away.

As usual we do not have any professional equipment to measure aerodynamic efficiency. We'd avoid using that oft-used cliché of feeling like continuous tailwind was behind us and just say that the Nitrogen zips along merrily, comfortable and confidently at speed.


The Argon 18 Nitrogen is a serious aero contender for your hard earned money. With the features you get vs. the price it's a steal! Bonus Fact: This exact frame design is used by the Bora-Argon18 Pro-Tour Team. Therefore, this has street cred.


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Review: 2014 Reynolds Assault SLG

January 2013 - Fresh off dipping my toes into carbon clincher waters via the Reynolds 46C, I immediately went to look for something more modern. I wanted a wheelset with a toroidal cross section, light weight and the requisite wide track. These wheels need to be priced far enough from Zipp and Enve to make sense not getting the after-mentioned wheels. 

With Reynolds really making a fresh, good impression I didn't hesitate to pull the trigger (or rather push the Buy Now button) on a pair of 2014 Reynolds Assault SLGs. 

Indeed, the spec sheet was impressive. Toroidal - check. Wide - check. Lightweight - check. Affordable - hmmm okay, check. 

A few emails to my USA shipper and a few days later, the Assaults have arrived.


There is much to like about the 2014 Reynolds Assaults. 

First, the depth. The Assault SLGs come in at a very very sexy 41mm rim depth. I would like to say that for a Roadie like yours truly, this depth is just PERFECT. It looks deep enough to be aero yet thin enough to suggest rapid acceleration. Who would have imagined that just shaving off 5mm from the 2013 Assault depth would make much of a difference. 

Reynolds 46 C and Assault SLG - 46mm and 41mm

Second, the width. At 25mm wide. The assault SLGs give you width and then some. When paired with our staple 25mm GP4000s', we were presented with a very clean tire-rim profile without the lightbulb shape which would have been present in the case of 25mm tires and 21mm> rims. This would surely please a lot of aero geeks (oops....enthusiasts) out there. Aerodynamics aside, we were surprised at how low we went with our air pressure. More on this later.

Third. Weight. Our sample came in exactly at the manufacturer's claimed 1475g (Front: 649g, Rear: 826g - no tape and skewers). The Assault SLGs do not really stand out from the crowd in terms of overall weight. But - the listed weight is not bad at all, given the 25mm width.  

Straight pull hubs are by Reynolds Racing and spokes are DT Swiss Aerocomps. Twenty radial spokes in front and 24 in the rear mounted in a two cross-drive side pattern.

The Cryogenic Glass Transition (CTg) brake surface which is present in our previous 46C clinchers makes is also incorporated into the Assault SLGs. CTg is a series of different compounds and materials which are designed to better withstand the heat produced by braking. And of course, the system requires the use of Reynolds' Cryo Blue pads which are solely to be used with the CTg surface.

Reynold's Swirl Lip Generator (SLG) is also featured in the Assault SLG :). SLG is a very small protrusion on the inner edge of the rim which disrupts passing air enough to replicate the airflow of a wider rim. The effect of which is smoother, and therefore faster, airflow.

Spoke nipples are external; this should please a lot of cyclists who do their own truing.

Graphics are thankfully subdued, with the logos and names printed in thin white outlines.


This was our first time to try Veloplugs as well. In an effort to keep the set weight below 1.5kg, we used these marvelous contraptions to keep the weight down. And they worked! At an estimated 5g per wheel, we saved somewhere in the region of 30-40 grams compared to the supplied tapes. 

Weight weenies rejoice!

Oh, and just so everyone knows, we used the Red Veloplugs for the Assault SLGs.

My sincerest apologies for using an Instagram pic of the plugs

On the Road

During our first time out with the Assault SLGs, we experienced a very loud squeal coming from the front brakes when applied at medium to high speed. While disconcerting, we easily remedied this by toeing in the pads. Although recommended, this was something we never had to do with the 46Cs. 

Almost Immediately the 25mm width's advantages made itself felt. While we typically run 95/100 PSI front/rear. We purposely pumped in 90/95 during our first ride. It made a bit of a difference. Subtle but noticeable. And after several more rides and a few pounds of rider weight loss, we now run the Assault SLGs with a tire pressure of 75/85. 

The ride at this pressure is simply amazing! 

Acceleration is very good and so is the handling. The stiffness of the 46Cs is still there, but fortunately, much of the bite from road bumps are taken out by the tires. 

One thing that these new aero shapes do well is handle crosswinds. The Assault SLGs are no exception. Although you still feel sudden sideward gusts, they are a lot less noticeably felt and you can easily power through constant sidewinds from 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock.

We really like the Assault SLGs and it seems these will be mounted on roadie for quite a long time. 

Looks perfect on the Foil


Equipped with the latest in wheelset tech. Not exactly cheap but the money feels well spent.

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Review: 2013 Reynolds 46 Clincher

December 2013 - I have always stuck to rims with aluminum brake surfaces as they allow me to brake as I please and as hard as I please without much thought about delamination or warping. Indeed, the internet is filled with such horror stories due to failures related to brake surface overheating.

This was until I test rode a friend’s generic 50mm carbon hoops.  I was immediately blown away by the weight... or rather, the lack of it.  After rolling on 1700 gram Shimano C50’s for the better part of the last year, riding on sub 1500 gram wheels was difference as distinguishable as night and day.  

Hill climbing became less of a chore and we went through said uphills a tad faster than normal.

That said, I still hesitated on getting a set. What if it rained? Carbon wheels are notoriously poor in stopping in the wet. What about long descents where you had to sustain constant brake pressure?  Conditions which are reported to be the cause of warping?


One day, on a random visit to my favorite brick and mortar LBS, the Godmother herself saw me looking at some carbon hoops and gave me an offer I can’t refuse.

I went home with a pair of 11-speed compatible 2013 Reynolds 46C's.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was pretty excited to leave my alloy brake surface comfort zone and put on new wheelsets. I suppose any Cyclist would feel as giddy whenever such a new equipment scenario presented itself.

On a side note, I would have gone for a more popular and affordable offering from the Reynolds stable, but to be frank, I didn’t quite warm up the graphics on the 2013 Assaults. But subdued graphics, DT hubs and better spokes were enough, in my mind, to pay extra for the 46 C’s.  


Sporting a more traditional 21mm width and regular V-shaped cross section. The 46C does not sport the now de rigeur toroidal shape nor the 23+ mm width of its newer competitors. Be that as it may, doing so has made the 46C’s innately light without delving into exotic carbon layup territory. And for more than a few cyclists, light weight is an advantage in itself. Although based on what we would now call old tech, the 46C is not without its own aero tricks. Reynolds have incorporated their SLG (Swirl Lip Generator) technology to the inner edge of the rims. This, Reynolds claim, reduces drag on the 46C by approximately 20% at 10 deg yaw,  

The wheels came in at a listed 1440 grams, roughly the equivalent of the Shimano WH-9000-C24’s we’re so fond of. But of course the 46Cs come in a more aero-friendly 46mm depth profile. As an aero road frame user, it makes perfect sense to mount aero wheels to match. The 46C's Simple, smart graphics is always a welcome bonus.  

To address the extended braking scenarios, Reynolds integrated their CTg braking system in the 46 C. The CTg (Cryogenic Glass Transition) System is Reynolds’ patented rim-pad pairing that enables so equipped Reynolds wheels to run up to 53% cooler compared to standard carbon-pad combinations’. In effect, CTg uses different kinds of carbon laminates to transition from the brake surface to the rim itself. This creates a heat sink effect wherein the brake surface passes heat onto other areas on the rim surface where passing airflow helps dissipate the it.  

This ensures smooth and predictable braking performance and dependability. As a system, users are required to use the included Cryo Blue pads else the warranty is void.

Handling mechanical duties are DT Swiss straight pull hubs. Spokes are DT Swiss Aerolites. The front is laced radially with 20 spokes while the rear has 24 in two-cross config. This configuration, like it or not, utilizes internal nipples. While we are sure this aids with smoother airflow, it’s certain to turn some off from doing frequent DIY truing.  

For 2014, reynolds have replaced the 46 C with the 46 Aero model. This updated wheelset sports a whopping 26.2mm width with aerodynamic features similar to the current 58 Aero. Weight has grown to 1505 grams though. 

All in all we were very satisfied with the 46c's.  

On the Road

The first thing we noticed about the 46's other than weight is the stiffness.  The wheels give the impression of immediately transmitting pedal input to the road where it belongs. Spinning these wheels up from a standstill is very very easily accomplished. At speed, the wheels hold speed quite well.

We used the 46C’s with our favorite 25mm GP 4000s’ without a problem. Although this produced a pronounced ‘lightbulb effect’, we felt the immediate benefit of a smoother ride due to the reduced air pressure possible with 25mm tires.

The DT Swiss hubs are smooth and quiet. Perhaps too quiet as we frequently had to call the attention of pedestrians and fellow cyclists as we went freewheeling.

We had the chance to test braking performance on a winding 8km descent from Bugarin. We have to admit that carbon braking takes some getting used to in terms of technique. However, the change is not that far off from alloy as it involves anticipation, timely deceleration and alternating between front and rear brakes. We do miss the ability to gun the brake levers all the way down though.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I was not able to test the brakes in the wet. Though it’s something one should prepare for, it’s not something I’m looking forward to personally.


Not the most modern of carbon clinchers but still plenty light and stiff. A great value if you get it at a discount!

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Ride Review: BGC Philippines 40k Challenge

Around nine weeks back, Daytripper1021 told me about an upcoming Cycling event , BGC Philippines 40k Challenge.

With non-cycling stuff to worry about, I lukewarmly agreed, forked out the Php 1500++ fee and completed the online registration for the event. 

At the time, all I knew was this ride was that this ride will run 40 kilometers within the Cycling friendly, unpolluted streets of Metro Manila (sarcasm inline). The November 17 event date was then far off in the horizon and was the least of my worries. 

Training for the ride was the last thing on my mind.

Days seemed to pass in a flurry until, lo and behold, it was November 15 and I was informed via email and SMS that our race kits were available for pickup. Realizing what commotion 2,000 cyclists can wreak in a cramped venue, Daytripper and I quickly made arrangements to pick up the items on the first day.

The Goods

Long story short, we were able to get our kit and get back to our lowly cubicles during lunch break. When we opened the bag (which, in itself, is an item of its own), we had ourselves an extremely well made dye-sublimated race jersey from F2P, a pair of RPJ Sunglasses (a Rudy Project brand), a bottle of Gatorade, reflectors, stickers and timing chip.

Photo by PTrainer JC

The fact that either the jersey or the shades alone costs as much as the entry fee makes the registration fee feel worth it. Add to that the Felt-branded canvas sling bag... sure it may be low cost, but it's useability, on two wheels or on foot, is beyond question.  

The Ride

We were part of Wave A which was scheduled to depart right after the Ride with Robbie wave. Robbie being retired Aussie pro-tour rider Robbie McEwen. Luckily, I was able to sneak in a few rides a few days before the event and shake off the rust from my semi atrophied calves, quads and hammies.

As the mass of riders assembled at the starting line at the corner of 9th and 10 avenues in BGC, i wrapped up some warmup laps and made my way to the start line to join my wave. I saw daytripper1021 looking at me from the other side of the crowd with a sheepish grin seemingly saying "Oh great! You actually woke up". I nodded in acknowledgement.

The challenge started off 5 minutes later than scheduled to give Robbie McEwen time to gauge their wave's abilities, or so the event host announced.... so, at exactly 6:10am, we were off. 

The takeoff was not without drama. Off the bat, a rider in front of me seemed to have difficulty clipping his cleats in and came to a stop, causing the rider behind to collide. Good thing, I was able to avoid them. 

As the group turned toward St. Lukes Medical Center, one rider's water bottle got detached and flew off across the road. The riders in front of me swerved to avoid the bottle and all the while pointing at the hazard. This, thankfully, was the last of the drama as far as my ride was concerned.   

As we turned right on Kalayaan, we were greeted by slow lengthy climb and as we reached the peak riders started to bunch up in order to avoid a huge unrepaired pothole. Credit has to be given to the event organizers as each and every pothole, train rail and road hazard had a marshall standing guard to warn cyclists of impending wheelset damage.

Once we passed this and started downhill, we soon found ourselves breaking right and on C5 road. Cycling on C5 has always been in my bucket list, but unruly drivers, jaywalkers, bad road patches and other stuff were always around to turn me off. Well, this was the day is when I ticked it off my bucket list as we had a lane and a half all to ourselves. 

C5 is a series of rolling uphills and descents but most enjoyable was the long descent towards The Heritage Park. With an unobstructed view of the relatively straight road, most cyclists, myself included, undoubtedly had their top speed marks set here. Conserving energy, I maxed out at 48km/h with just a moderate application of pedal power.

Taking a U-turn using the Bayani Road underpass, we made our way back to BGC with haste. Things were pretty uneventful except for the exit climbing up to Market Market where we had to do a steep 500 meter climb while avoiding some ruts and cracks. Lack of climbing practice took it's toll as a lot of guys I passed on flats and descents overtook me.   

As we made our way to the Buendia flyover, things started looking a lot better. As we started yet another short climb, we were greeted with asphalt. Well laid, smooth asphalt. As we traversed Buendia, buildings and trees provided ample shade cyclists.

The smooth goings on however, were interrupted once we passed the train rails on the corner of South Super Highway. Everyone had to slow down and pick a spot to cross the rails with minimum bumps.

Soon enough, we found ourselves in Roxas Boulevard. Which was as well asphalted as Buendia. Honking motorists greeted us with every intersection, it seemed. Fortunately, police were there to keep the restless natives from revolting.

At the halfway point in Luneta Grandstand, I stopped at a hydration point and took in a couple of cups of water. The route to the finish line was essentially tracing our way back through Roxas and Buendia.

As I approached the Buendia flyover for the last time, I had a sense that I conserved too much energy. And as I cranked my way up and finished the climb, I figured I'd just enjoy the rest of the ride and not chase a few measly seconds.

As my group approached the finish line, everyone started sprinting. I held back purposely, content with a solo finish and possibly some good finish line pics. And true enough, I had a good solo shot and finish, just a the announcer called out my time.

Out of Shape, but just look at that depth-of-field! 

Daytripper1021 was waiting when I got to the medal awarding area and we managed to get some photos with Robbie. After which, we went for a relaxed cooldown ride around BGC.

I can't express enough how satisfied I am with the BGC Philippines 2013 ride. It's well organized and, in my opinion, well worth the entry price. And of course, riding the same roads you regularly drive through daily sans the traffic and pollution is an experience in itself.

Am I looking forward to BGC Philippines 2014?

I think the question is "When do we start training?".


I asked Robbie McEwen if we can swap Foils (his being Team Edition). He said "It's not mine, go ahead!". Should've had taken him up on that. 


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2014 Ultegra 6800 - Dura Ace Tech Trickles Down!

As expected, some a lot of the new features introduced in Shimano's Dura Ace 9000 series will trickle down to the 6800 series Ultegra group, which will be released sometime 2014. As we'll see, it's more than just going 11-speed.

Highlights, in a nutshell: 

  • Crankset (FC-6800) - Will feature a four arm spider resembling the Dura Ace's FC-9000. This will save some weight off the outgoing FC-6700 cranks while offering a standardized crankarm for use with standard, compact and mid-compact chainrings. 
  • Shifters (ST-6800) - Mimics the ergonomics of the Dura Ace ST-9000 in that it's thinner, therefore easier to grip. These will also feature the same light shift effort and shorter lever throw of the Dura Ace STI's. How much so is the question. 

  • Front Derailleur (FD-6800) - Again we see a direct trickle down of Dura Ace technology in the upcoming Ultegra's FD. The long arm, promises the same, light shift effort of the FD-9000. 

  • Brakes (BR-6800) - Symmetrical Dual Pivot design also inherited from the Dura Ace BR-9000. Shimano claims a 10% increase in braking power over the BR-6700. 

  • Rear Derailleur (RD-6800) - One ups the Dura Ace RD-9000 in that a long cage option is available. You'll need this if you want to run the 6800's new 38T large sprockets. 

  • Cassette (CS-6800) - available in 11-23, 11-25, 11-28 and now in 11-32! You'll need a long cage RD-6800 to accommodate the 32T gear though. Having 11 speeds now means having back  one additional 'missing' gear in the middle of the range, or suddenly having a 32T bailout gear for the toughest of climbs. Depends on your point of view. 
  • Chain (CN-6800) - Same as the DA-9000 chain, the inner dimensions are maintained while size reduction only applies to the outer dimensions. The 6800 chain gets a PTFE (Teflon) coating as well. These are not directional which means you can mount it either way. These don't get the CN-9000's hollow pins though.

  • Cables - Also get the Polymer coating used in the 9000 series. 
Everything about the 6800 looks good on paper. Specs and features are up there in terms of mid-level groups and it looks like we just have to suffer some good ol' added weight with the 6800 series. This is, of course, to give the flagship Dura Ace 9000 a halo effect.

As can be observed with the previous Dura Ace 7900 and the Ultegra 6700 series, it's not beyond reason to expect that the Ultegra 6800 will perform very much like the 9000.

Given that the 6800 will set you back almost half of what the 9000 does, the added 200 or so grams is a penalty which we predict a lot of people will gladly bear.

Expected release date is September 2013. Asian release is typically a few months before. 

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Review: Giro Air Attack

2012 really cemented a new Road Bike consideration: Aerodynamics. It was no longer enough that frames and components be light and stiff, they had to be aero. 

While Aerodynamics have long been the realm of wheel designers and Time Trial bikes, it has made its indelible mark on the roadie landscape with the slew of new aerodynamic frames, handlebars, pedals and what have you, all claiming they can cheat the wind and save precious watts.  

Eventually it had to come to this.  The call of aerodynamics found their way to the Helmet as well.  While we have heard of aerodynamic claims from ordinary multi-holed road helmets before, let's just say that this is the first time that we have seen something which really looks like something we'd imagine an aero road helmet to be.  

Here we have in our hands.... Giro's Air Attack.


First off, let's get straight to the aesthetics issue. You either like the looks of the Air Attack or you hate it. I haven't seen anyone who's just fine or lukewarm with the looks. Anyone with an Air Attack is bound to get comments like 'it looks like something you'd find on a mountainbiker' or 'is that helmet from Tony Hawk?'.  We can't blame people for saying that because, well, it's true. But you do have to take into consideration where the design is rooted.

Only six vents present on the Air Attack

Giro's designers wanted to take their Selector tear drop helmet and somehow adapt the design to produce a road specific cycling helmet. Giro's designers tapped into the now familiar Kamm-tail aero principle. This states that you can still get very good aerodynamic performance by having the front end of the very aerodynamic teardrop shape and lopping off the rear portion as the air still tends to flow as if over a whole teardrop shape. This design has been implemented in newer aero road frames such as Scott's Foil and BMC's TMR01 among others.

Two of the vents are actually dedicated for exhaust

This lends to what the Air Attack looks like now... a truncated Selector. 

It may take some getting used to but from our perspective it's not at all ugly. In fact, it has a certain 'function over form' beauty to it.  

As in most Giro helmets, build quality is top notch. The outer shell is finished nicely with perfectly placed decals and chrome emblem. The cables and straps are well placed and the adjusters and locks are made of quality plastic. Overall, you're looking at a top-class lid.


Giro claims that the Air Attack's aerodynamic efficiency sits somewhere between the Aeon and the Selector, with the latter being the best. This is to be expected as the Air Attack does not have as much drag producing vents the Aeon has but also lacks the long teardrop tail of the Selector.  If you want the maths of it, head on over to Spokeydokeyblog to see the extrapolated power savings of the Air Attack.

And speaking of vents, the Air Attack will come up dead last in most helmet vent comparisons, sporting just six (two front, two top, two exhaust).  However, Giro pulled up some tricks from its ventilation sleeve. Instead of the helmet making contact with your head, the helmet is actually suspended 3 millimeters above the rider's head by Giro's Roc Loc Air system. What this does is give room for the air to flow under the helmet and over your head thus providing ventilation.

Roc Loc Air mechanism suspends the Air Attack a few millimeters above your head

As seen here, there is a bit of space on the forehead as well as groove channels on the side of the foam to allow air to channel inwards. Giro claims that the air attack sits in between the Aeon and the Selector on this front as well, this time with the Aeon providing the best ventilation.

Internal grooves help channel air over the head

The adjustment mechanism works satisfactorily in-ride, but not as easily as our long term tester Prevail, mostly due to the smaller knob. We found initial strap adjustments a bit finicky, but its a one time thing so it's not really a big deal.

Our sample came in at is 312 grams, heavy by today's standards.

As weighted: 312 grams

A magnetic visor is available in the Air Attack Shield. This visor is made by renowned optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss Vision. The visor can easily be detached and reattached while in the saddle and can be mounted upside-down to allow the rider to get it out of the way for whatever reason. As the system uses magnets, this is easily accomplished.

The Air Attack Shield with the magnetic visor

On The Road

Our size Large sample sat quite comfortably and we found the Roc Loc Air mechanism was quite secure. That said, our Prevail is a tiny bit more comfortable, but then again not as comfortable as our old Bell Array in terms of pure fit. You can take this with a grain of salt however as head shape, and therefore fit, is extremely relative and varies from person to person.

The added weight, compared to our erstwhile staple lid Prevail, was a bit noticeable when initially worn but becomes a non issue over the course of a ride.

Ventilation, now this is what a lot of people ask about. Initial skepticism on probable marketing hype were dismissed once we were in motion. Yes, we were actually surprised at the airflow the Air Attack provides! Giro's gimmicky venting system actually works. The slits on the front of the helmet provide adequate ventilation from 14 km/h and good ventilation from 19 km/h. In between 25 to around 30 km/h is where you want to be to truly call the helmet breezy. And one more thing, you'd want to be facing a bit downward and point the vents onto incoming air to really ram it in.

That said, this is still not as well ventilated as our Prevail, whose mega mouthport just blows off or dries forehead sweat.

One positive thing we noticed with the Giro is the wind noise... or lack thereof. This is noticeably quieter than previous multi-vent helmets we used. The only noise we noticed is from the air going over the ears.

What we didn't like is the rear height/angle adjuster. It's a bit too easy to adjust and we observed that it keeps adjusting by itself.  The good thing is that our preferred fit is at the lowest position, which the adjuster seems to default to.

Final Words

They say that, as in fighter planes, if it looks fast - it looks good. And while we can't dispute that the Air Attack is faster in the wind tunnel, real world advantages are very much subject to debate. Nonetheless, the Air Attack is the first of a growing list of dedicated aero helmets for road cyclists with the Scott Vanish Aero having just been announced and Specialized's thing undergoing field testing (below).

With the advent of UCI banning helmet covers such as Lazer's Aeroshell, we expect that manufactures will continue to churn out dedicated aero road helmets. At this point it's looking as like they are here to stay.


Not our first choice on long climbs in hot summer days but something we'll definitely sport on the flats.  Just get used to other Cyclists staring at you until these aero road helms become more commonplace. 

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