We’ve got another packed edition of Tech of the Week for you, featuring what looks like SRAM’s next-generation Red groupset, Brompton’s collab with Bear Grylls, your chance to ride virtual stages of the Vuelta a España, and earbuds designed with cycling in mind, but we’re starting with a very, very unusual helmet…
In terms of appearance, it’s a challenge but could the Inflabi inflatable bike helmet offer practical benefits for urban cyclists? (We first saw this product on Cyclist’s website although it was at Eurobike earlier in the summer).
If you think this looks like something you just pump up and stick on your head… well, yeah, that’s pretty much the size of it.
“Unlike classic helmets, the bicycle helmet is not made of EPS foam, but consists of robust textile air-tied chambers that use our air technology,” says Inflabi. “When filled with air we can achieve a better shock absorption in case of a fall.
“We use inflated air chambers to provide unparalleled safety and protection for cyclists. Our unique design uses abrasion-resistant high-quality fabrics and a specialised membrane to create air chambers that can be easily inflated before use, providing a custom fit and maximum impact absorption.”
The only existing design we can think of that does anything even vaguely similar is from Hövding, but that’s an airbag that you wear around your neck, automatically inflating to cover your head if you fall.
What’s the advantage of an air-filled design?
“[It is] lightweight and flexible, comfortable and adaptable,” says Inflabi. “If you don’t need Inflabi, deflate it in seconds and store it in your pocket.”
Inflabi says that when deflated, the helmet packs down to 15% of its in-use size and that it’s reusable after a crash “as air does not break”. Obviously, it has to be inflated to a certain pressure to be fully effective.
There doesn’t look like a great deal of ventilation going on here but Inflabi says that will come.
You can’t yet buy the helmet but Inflabi is continuing to develop its product, moving away from its original ‘orange peel’ look – as shown in the image at the top of the page – to a design that offers “a more sleek and a more comfortable fit’.
“We are currently working towards getting the certification for the Inflabi inflatable bike helmet,” says Inflabi. “This involves undergoing rigorous testing and meeting industry standards for safety and performance.”
Inflabi’s Julian Wiebke says, “It’s not on the market yet. However, we will probably do a presale in Q4 this year and are planning to ship in Q1/Q2 next year. The price is probably going to be around €150.”
That converts to around £129. We’ll keep you updated on progress.
SRAM could be planning to offer a new shifting option when it introduces its updated top-level Red AXS groupset, giving you a thumb button on the side of the lever body, judging by a just-published patent.
There have been rumours about a new version of the SRAM Red groupset for months now with previously unseen shifters having been spotted as long ago as last December, although SRAM hasn’t officially said a thing about it.
Pro riders have been seen using shifters with hoods that are noticeably smaller than those of current-generation Red – more in line with SRAM’s third-tier Rival eTap AXS groupset and the recently released version of SRAM Force AXS – on top-end race bikes.
Now a patent for a “Control Device For A Bicycle” that has just been launched appears to show similar shifter architecture but with an ‘auxiliary button’ positioned on the side of the lever body – up at the front end, which SRAM calls the ‘pommel’.
“The auxiliary button may be connected to a shift lever paddle printed circuit board (PCB) via a cable that is routed and retained on the body of the control device through a channel within the body of the control device,” says SRAM.
This auxiliary button – which you should be able to find easily because there may be a convex or concave dome or rectangle in the outer cover to indicate its position – is designed to provide “additional functionality and ergonomics”, according to SRAM.
For what, exactly, would the auxiliary button be used?
“Activation of the auxiliary button unit may initiate the generation of signals related to shifting, pairing, derailleur trim operations, power management, one or more other actions on the bicycle, or any combination thereof,” says SRAM, in typical patent jargonese… but you get the idea.
“For example, the controller of the PCB may be configured to generate signals to control the front derailleur and/or the rear derailleur in response to a signal received… when the electrical switch is activated by the rider.”
It sounds, then, like this auxiliary button could be used for setting up the system – getting the indexing correct – but perhaps for shifting too. The shifter that sits behind the brake lever is still there, of course, it’s just that the auxiliary button provides an extra option, as the name suggests.
This auxiliary button sounds a lot like the button you get on top of each shifter hood with Shimano Di2. These buttons can be used to change pages on your cycle computer and they can also be configured to control your shifting. Is SRAM planning something similar? As usual with anything patent-related, we’ll just have to wait and see.
What features would you like to see included in SRAM's next Red AXS groupset? Let us know in the comments.
Could this be the bike that’s ridden to victory in this year’s Vuelta a España? Although you’d be brave to bet against the Jumbo-Visma pairing of Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic, Soudal–Quick-Step’s Remco Evenepoel is likely to be there or thereabouts and here’s the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8 he’ll be riding.
The complete race-ready bike – including pedals, power meter, computer mount, and bottle cages – weighs the UCI minimum of 6.8kg.
The Tarmac SL8 is built with Roval wheels - he’ll choose between Rapide and Alpinist depending on the day’s profile - a Rapide integrated cockpit, S-Works Power with Mirror saddle, and Turbo clincher tires.
Trek has introduced an all-new Icon premium paint scheme to its Project One custom bike programme. Crystalline Prismatic “creates a prism effect and refracts light in multiple dimensions”, according to Trek.
“This handcrafted scheme is made by fusing thousands of tiny crystals into organic lattice structures that radiate in any light,” it says. “Due to the organic nature of the Crystalline paint process, no two frames are the same.
The new paint scheme is said to complement SRAM’s updated Force AXS D2 groupset, which features a holographic design on the shifters, crankset, and derailleurs.
Folding bike brand Brompton has partnered with navigation and activity app Komoot to offer a series of routes from key European cities, the idea being to encourage their respective communities to ride outside the urban environment. This partnership is designed to celebrate the launch of the Brompton x Bear Grylls collaboration.
To begin with there will be 31 routes in nine countries and 18 different cities – including London, Birmingham, and Manchester – with riders able to then add their own routes to the collection.
The 6-speed Brompton x Bear Grylls bike “champions exploring the city and beyond, outside your regular commute or weekend loop”, according to Brompton. It will go on sale on 13th September.
Although the concept of an aero base layer might sound odd, we’ve been hearing a lot about this latest marginal gain over the past few months and Rule 28 has just launched a new offering that’s said to be optimised for high speeds. It’s all about the ribbing, apparently.
“Our original Aero Base Layer is a fantastic performer for speeds below 50kph [31mph]…we’re thrilled to see so many elite riders choosing it for road racing and time trial races,” said Sam Calder, founder of Rule 28. “But we know there is an appetite for purpose-designed garments to suit the specific needs of road sprinters and track racers operating at speeds exceeding 50kph. It’s not a base layer for everyone, but for those racing at these high speeds, it’s a game changer.
Rule 28 says that the High Speed Aero Base Layer is “the result of the rigorous testing of numerous prototypes, each featuring custom fabrics with a range of rib spacings”.
“The theory behind how two-layer aero technologies work predicts that different rib spacings will yield optimal performance at different speeds,” says Rule 28. “The narrower spacing of the ribs in this High Speed Aero Base Layer, when placed underneath a skinsuit, proves more effective in reducing drag above 50kph.”
If you’re sceptical, Rule 28 publishes all aero testing results and data online. You can check out the details here.
Like Rule 28’s original Aero Base Layer, the High Speed Base Layer costs £149.99.
Swiss shoe brand Suplest has introduced a new After Bike collection that’s designed for non-cycling use. You know, for everyday life.
There are two models, each available in a couple of different colours, made in Portugal.
The Classic has a soft suede upper and an EVA sole. It’s not cheap, though, priced at €249 (around £213).
The Sport is described as “a fashion sneaker inspired by jogging shoes, but too good for running”. You’re looking at €229 (around £196) a pair.
Indoor cycling app Rouvy has launched a series of races under the banner of La Vuelta Virtual, running alongside la Vuelta a España which is starting this weekend.
“Unpredictable, unconventional, hot, brutal and gripping, riders will be able to experience the thrills, sights and emotions of the iconic Spanish race with realistic, high-quality video routes, closely following the real-world parcours ridden by the pros during la Vuelta,” says Rouvy.
“With three levels of challenge available – Tranquilo (four challenging but achievable stages), Medio (four tougher stages) and Diablo (15 stages – a challenge for highly determined riders) – there are options suited to riders of all levels of ability.”
You can unlock official virtual jerseys by completing any La Vuelta Virtual '23 Rouvy challenge.
A series of races will be held too, with events running up to four times per day, with multiple heats, throughout the three weeks of racing.
“Each day will feature races on the real-world Vuelta a España stage, flashback races on the previous stage and recon group rides on the next stage upcoming,” says Rouvy.
We recently reviewed OneOdio Open Rock Pro earbuds and were really impressed so we’re excited to see that the brand is introducing new OpenRock S Open Air Conduction Earbuds that are designed to allow you to remain aware of your surroundings while cycling, running, and walking.
“Serving as the successor to the acclaimed OpenRock Pro, these earbuds mark a significant evolution in technology, presenting improved features and enhanced battery life, all while maintaining an accessible price point,” says OneOdio.
If you’re wondering, that price is £73.
“The open-fit without any ear plugs allows air pressure to stay equalised whilst ensuring important environmental sounds can still be heard for a safer and more comfortable wearing experience even after hours of use,” says OneOdio.
“The earbuds also adopt dual-mark noise reduction and beam-forming tech so that even with external noises, users are still able to immerse themselves into a soundtrack or phone call, making them perfect for outdoor fitness enthusiasts.”
They come with an IPX5 rating which means that they’ll stand up to exposure to water jets. More to the point, they should withstand sweat and a decent amount of rain.
OneOdio claims a playback time of up to 19 hours, or as much as 60 hours with the charging case.
We should have a pair on the way for review on road.cc.
The OneOdio OpenRock S Open Air Conduction Earbuds are available now for £73 on the OneOdio website and AliExpress. Amazon will stock them in September.
Chrome has expanded its Ruckas Collection with the introduction of a new Tote bag.
“This roomy hybrid has been cleverly designed to be worn either as a backpack or in traditional tote mode, with convertible shoulder straps allowing you to easily move to hand carry,” says Chrome.
“Designed to transport your tech safely and securely, inside the spacious main compartment you’ll also find a padded laptop sleeve designed to hold devices of up to 15in, with a handy expandable gusseted side water bottle pocket and organiser zip pocket to the outer.”
As with all products in the Ruckas Collection, the Tote is PFC-free and has been made with recycled materials. It features a hanging/grab loop at the top and wide, adjustable straps.
The Chrome Tote weighs 0.5kg, has a 27-litre capacity, and is priced at £90. We’ve requested a sample for review here on road.cc.
There’s nothing new about making panniers out of plastic cans but RackHackers have just produced a video showing you exactly how to do it.
They even provide a parts kit.
“We spent two years designing and testing, to make it as visually appealing and functional as we could, based on what we learned in 10 years, using different versions of it,” says RackHackers’ Andras Booker.
“During the design process, we committed to only using parts that can be found in hardware stores, or easily made, for people who prefer to produce it themselves.”
In case you missed it earlier in the week…
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.