16 Cool (Mostly) Bike-Related Things From OR Show

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With nearly 800,000 square feet of outdoor awesome, the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market exhilarates and exhausts.

Imagine an outdoor store ten times the size of your average Costco, jam packed with the latest and greatest for camping, paddling, fishing, trail running, yoga, hiking, climbing, and, yes, cycling. Unlike your average Costco, it’s full of mostly fit, pretty darn good looking people…I mentioned the yoga part, right?

Now throw in some demo areas with climbing walls, paddling pools, and fly casting ponds. If you’re envisioning a mega REI on steroids—granola-fed, organic, natural, gluten-free steroids of course—you’re getting the gist of what the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show looks like.

Positioned ahead of the Eurobike and Interbike cycling trade shows, “Summer OR” as its casually called, brings nearly 30,000 attendees and some 1,300 exhibitors to Salt Lake City each August. And while we generally get the skinny on new bike stuff at the cycling trade shows and press launches, Mtbr sent me to OR in search of gear that crosses-over. Stuff like bikepacking essentials, sports electronics, and base camping setups, as well as relevant technology and trends in fabrics, apparel and materials. What follows, in no particular order, are some things that piqued my curiosity…as well as blatant pandering to bacon and beer lovers. Take a look and see what you think.

1. Thule integrates handy work stand into new bike travel cases

Hard case or soft case, Thule’s new pair of bike boxes each include wheel bags, an integrated work stand and retail for $599.

Bikes and air travel go together like peanut butter and pickles. Compounding the already cumbersome task of navigating airports with an awkward, heavy container is the indignity of the hotel-as-bike-shop. It seems you’re either out in the parking lot fumbling for tools in the dark, or inside tripping over the bike box and decorating your room with grease. Thule’s pair of clever new bike boxes add a handy, integrated work stand to the mix that just might save you from having to pony up for a new set of Egyptian cotton sheets.

Both boxes–one is a hard case, the other soft-sided—accommodate bikes with wheelbases up to 46 inches, meaning almost any road, cyclocross or mountain bike (including downhill) fits. The convertible fork mount accommodates 9 mm quick releases, as well as 15 and 20 mm through-axels. They’re both equipped with a pair of wheel bags to keep your hoops safe, and the aforementioned work stand, which clicks into the bags’ high-impact ABS plastic base during transit. High-quality dolly wheels, and rugged, rubber-coated handles make maneuvering the boxes easy.

The hard-sided Round Trip Elite employs a version of Thule’s wheel strap mechanism to clasp the case shut and is the roomier of the two boxes with a few more cubic inches to stow gear like helmets, shoes and hydration packs around the bike. The soft-sided Round Trip Pro foregoes clips in favor of heavy-duty zippers for closure, and has slightly less room, but folds down for better space management when not carrying a bike—say stored in the back of your garage, a rental car, or in that swanky hotel room you didn’t get dirty. Either bag retails for $599 and will be available in November of 2013. thule.com

2. Brunton’s pocket-sized Hydrogen Reactor a portable power game changer

The portable Brunton Hydrogen Reactor brilliantly makes energy from water and air using lightweight interchangeable Hydrogen Cores.

As all manner of devices—smartphones, tablets, GPS and the like—make their way to the backcountry, the need for dependable portable power has grown exponentially. And while portable solar emerged as a cleaner, greener alternative to disposable batteries a couple years ago, Brunton’s new hydrogen-based solution might just be bigger than the sun.

At about the size of a pack of flashcards, the 146-gram Brunton Hydrogen Reactor generates energy by creating a reaction between ambient oxygen, and hydrogen stored in small, lightweight, rechargeable cylinders called Hydrogen Cores, according to product manager Ryan Perry. Energy transfers from the Reactor—essentially a fuel cell—to the device via USB cord just as if it were connected to a reserve external battery or wall charger. For a sense of capacity, each Hydrogen Core stores enough energy to fully-charge an iPhone six times, and users can carry any number of the 100-gram cylinders to fit their power needs.

A bikepacker on a week-long trip, for instance, might carry five or six cores to keep a GPS, USB water purifier, and camping lamp charged, while a single core would likely suffice for a weekend trip requiring just-in-case power.

More mundanely, I wish I had one right now to get my tablet out of the danger zone as I type away in an overcrowded airport with few outlets. The point being, this thing has some real potential for the great indoors as well.

Unlike solar, a hydrogen system is not dependent on bright sunlight and can do its thing under cloud cover, in the rain, and even in total darkness.

When a Hydrogen Core is spent, it’s recharged with a machine called an H2O Hydrolizer which is about the size of an electric pencil sharpener, and looks like one too. Simply pour in water, turn on the machine, and it extracts hydrogen, storing it in solid form on materials inside the cylinder core. The $300 charger can be purchased for home use, though Brunton envisions a system similar to propane tank exchanges where retailers can refill or exchange Hydrogen Cores for a small fee–anywhere from free to $5.

The Hydrogen Reactor itself retails for a reasonable $150 and includes two charged Hydrogen Cores. Spares are available for $15 a pop. The pricing seems reasonable even before you factor in Brunton’s U-Proof Promise, an unconditional repair/replacement policy that kicks in even if it’s your fault. brunton.com

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About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born editorial director Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and pedaling for Mtbr, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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