Some parts and accessories this time around, including a couple of gizmos to help you document your rides…
Visit any popular riding spot on a weekend and you’ll see at least one person riding around with a helmet camera. Chances are that this is hooked up to a camcorder. Which is all well and good, but (if ours is anything to go by) such setups tend to have lots of wires, extra battery packs and give you a time-consuming capture and editing job once you’re back at home. VIO’s Point Of View system is designed to streamline all that – it’s a fully integrated camera and recorder, comes complete with editing software and makes online distribution of your footage a snap.
The camera unit uses a CMOS sensor, with better sensitivity and lower power demands than a CCD. You’ll get several hours from the four AA batteries used. Maximum resolution is 720×480 at 30fps. The camera head is waterproof (up to a metre, but even in the UK you’re unlikely to end up upside-down in three feet of water). It’ll also work in temperatures from -40 to 85 °C, a considerably wider range than our own operating temperature of about -5 to 35… Helmet and tube-fitting mounts are included, and the camera attaches to them in the same way as the telescopic sights on rifles.
The camera plugs directly into the recording unit – there’s an in-line microphone. The batteries live inside the recorder and power the whole system, so there’s just one wire. The recorder writes directly to SD cards in AVI format – at full resolution you’ll get just under an hour on to a 2Gb card. There’s a small screen and a loudspeaker to review your footage and a simple menu system. Again, the recorder is waterproof and shock resistant – it’s a very solid-feeling bit of kit.
The remote control is wireless and has a Velcro strap to attach to the straps of your pack or to our arm. The remote is coded so you won’t inadvertently start your mate’s recorder. “Stop” and “Rec” are obvious enough, but the “Tag” feature is pretty clever. Press it while recording and it flags the footage so you can easily find the good bits later on. Even cleverer, if you set the system to “loop” mode it’ll buffer several minutes of video, only committing it to the SD card when you press the button. So you can ride without recording everything, then if you decide that that bit you just rode was pretty cool-looking, hit the button and it’ll get recorded retrospectively.
Plug the recorder into your PC (sorry, Mac fans, but as you’re getting regular AVI files on the card you can just use iMovie or whatever) and VIO’s software shows you all the clips, lets you quickly pick out the best bits and shuffle them into your desired order. You can then share the finished product on VIO’s own server, and the software will email your friends to let them know it’s there.
There’s a downside to all this cleverness (and ruggitude) – this is a professional-grade system and comes with a fairly professional price tag of $849 in the US.
GoPro Digital Hero
If you’re on more of a budget, then GoPro’s Digital Hero camera might fit the bill. The lens is tiny, the resolution a bit lower and it’s generally not as sophisticated, but it’s waterproof, simple, writes straight to SD cards and above all cheap at $140 or so. If you just want to throw the occasional video clip at YouTube this could be all you need.
You get frame and helmet mounts, and the camera is quick release – run mounts on your bike facing forwards and backwards and one on your helmet and move the camera around as you wish to get different angles.
If you’re looking for innovations, the humble kneepad isn’t perhaps the first place you’d think of. But SixSixOne has what for our money is the Properly Clever Idea Of The Show. Externally, its latest pads look fairly conventional – neoprene, Velcro, the usual. But inside is this smashing orangey bit. The actual protective cup is made from a magical visco-elastic polymer that’s impact sensitive. Ordinarily you can squash, squeeze, stretch or bend it, making for a comfy pad that provides no hindrance to articulation. But hit it with a blunt implement and it instantly hardens, dissipating the impact.
The demo blob on SixSixOne’s stand was a very compelling exhibit – you could rest the hammer on it and gently squash it like Play-Doh, but try and deal it a hefty blow and suddenly it’s a solid puck that bounces the hammer back at you. So you get the comfort of soft neoprene and foam pads with the protection of hard-shell pads. Genius.
Look has returned to the off-road pedal market with the new Quartz MTB pedal promises generous float and mud-shedding ability. It’ll be available in a range of specs, with the claimed weight for the top-flight carbon/titanium model being 95g. Before you get over-excited, that’s (rather bizarrely) per pedal. Whether there’s actually room in the market for another pedal system remains to be seen…
In the “about blimmin’ time” category, Wicked Racin’s Dualrailleur is a deeply cunning mash-up of Shimano XT front mech and boomerang plate/roller/upper cage chain device. The upper cage clamps on to the mech – you get smooth shifting on your twin-and-bash setup, but in the outer ring the chain is fully enclosed as if on a single-ring/chain device combination. It fits most bikes, with slight variations of cage shape and boomerang plate catering for statistical outliers.
Stop now, it’s getting silly – Gatorbrake was showing an eight-pot brake caliper, which is about four bikes’ worth of pistons in our world.