The holidays are a perfect time to celebrate the gift of cyclocross, and what better way to whoop it up than to share some last-minute ’cross love with others? Give a teammate a must-have tool (that you can borrow), introduce a loved one to the sport, drop a hint by leaving this list out for a significant other, or just reward yourself for a great season (or console yourself for a crappy one). Our editors have reviewed, tested and hand-picked a plethora of gift suggestions. Today we bring you new carbon-specific brake pads from Kool Stop, as well as two grippy handlebar tapes from Zipp and Lizard Skins.
A Festive Red Brake Pad on a Diet
A brake pad may not be the sexiest gift ever, but it’ll really show your love for your favorite cyclocrossers, because you’ve done your homework and minded the details. Kool Stop’s new Dura2 shaped pads eliminate the original Dura’s plow tip for better rim contact, and they’re thicker for longer life. For alloy rims, we still really like the salmon pad or multi-compound pad (reviewed in Issue 7 and 14), but for carbon rims, the new Kool Stop Carbon Red (#1003) compound pads may be our new favorite.
The pad offers great modulation in dry weather, and surprisingly decent braking, at least for carbon rims, when conditions are wet or muddy. Compared to the popular Swiss Stop Yellow King brake pads, these pads seem to stop almost as well when dry, and a bit better when it’s wet or sloppy. The better wet weather performance might be because of the new compound. The red Kool Stop 1003 pads feel a bit softer than Yellow Kings, and my uncalibrated fingernail seems to confirm this fact. Kool Stop doesn’t like to directly mention competitor products, but did tell us at Interbike that they have spent a long time developing this pad that we first saw in Bend at the 2010 National Championships, and acknowledged is a bit softer than some other products.
One major selling point is Kool Stop’s rim-friendly compound that extends the life of your expensive hoops. How do they extend the life of your carbon rims? The pad is on a diet — the pad material is not as harsh on the carbon braking surface as some other popular carbon pads, and thus there’s much less “carbon eating” by the pad. Over a season of even only race-day use, the difference in wear can be noticeable. Carbon race wheels are not cheap — it makes sense to choose a pad that extends their life if braking isn’t compromised. We think Kool Stop achieved this.
The pads are also supposed to have great heat dispersion qualities for those long alpine descents you might find in the Tour, but with our short, cyclocross training rides and races, we weren’t able to test or appreciate this quality in our use.
At $20 per pair, the Kool Stop Dura 2 pads are about 40% cheaper than the popular Swiss Stop Yellow King pads. Being a bit softer, they may wear a bit faster but you should still get more use per dollar from these red pads. The bigger savings will be from not wearing out your rims as quickly.
Kool Stop Dura 2 Carbon Red (1003) compound pads
More info: www.koolstop.com
Check your local bike shop or favorite online retailer for availability. If you strike out, they are also available online at Amazon.
Get a Grip
If you can’t afford to give a new bike, upgrading a racer’s handlebar tape might just do the trick. Lizard Skins’ DSP 2.5 tape ($35) and Zipp’s Service Course CX tape ($24, made by Lizard Skins) provide a grippy, cushy wrap to any handlebar that will make an old bike feel new. Even the biggest retro grouch at CXM threw out his cork tape for these new, grippy, durable handlebar tapes.
They don’t absorb water, have a decent amount of padding, and provide a good grip whether you are bare handed or wearing gloves. The textured grip can collect dirt, as all the little grooves also provide a nice place for dirt and sticky mud, but a hose and a light brushing can clean up this tape pretty well.
Installation is not too different than standard synthetic cork or gel tape, but does not require stretching. We found that both Zipp and Lizard Skins provided a generous amount of tape, more than sufficient for 44cm wide handlebars, and the extra length was welcomed as we were able to do a tighter wrap on the flats for extra cushion.
As for durability, we’re lucky to be able to say we haven’t crashed on this stuff yet, but you can see scuffs and scratches from normal contact. But no tearing or unraveling yet.
The DSP 2.5 tape is lighter than the Zipp tape, (58g vs. 90g, with plugs), but the Zipp tape offers twice the adhesive and more texture for better grip during wet races. Play a trick on your favorite racer – have Santa wrap the bars and leave a stocking-stuffer note that a new ride awaits. She (or he!) may be disappointed when she doesn’t see a new bike, but after her first ride, she’ll thank you for the new comfy, grippy ride.
The biggest downside to the Zipp CX and Lizard Skins DSP tape? Riding another bike from the stable without this type of tape, and missing it. But this hopefully is just a short-term problem — we’re saving our money to be able to convert more bikes.
Zipp Service Course CX Handlebar Tape:
Weight: 90g with plugs
More info: www.zipp.com
Call it “The 12 days of Crossmas,” “The Festival of Cyclokkah” … or something similarly themed surrounding Kwanza, Saturnalia, Festivus (or your favorite winter holiday of choice) that we’re not witty enough to make sound cyclocross-related, but the gear-heads at Cyclocross Magazine have been busy digging through piles of bike stuff to bring you some great gift ideas. Most recommendations are at the stocking-stuffer-end of the spectrum, so we won’t take away from your entry-fee piggy bank. The one gift that keeps on giving, of course, is a subscription to Cyclocross Magazine! Stay tuned for plenty of gift ideas and product reviews between now and the end of the year. Some of these last-minute gift ideas also appear in Issue 15.