New handlebars and “dropper post” for gravel riding, bags for bike packing adventures, and a wide array of saddles were among the PRO novelties that caught our attention at this year’s Eurobike exhibition.
Focusing on the development and manufacturing of top-class cycling accessories, Shimano’s renowned subsidiary proved once more that innovation never halts at the Japanese industry giant. The PRO brand generally follows the well-proven principles of the parent company, characterized by a conservative strategy that forever strives for perfection. So PRO is generally not the first brand to introduce new ideas to the market, neither are they in the business demonstrating the latest extravagant trends. But when they do in fact introduce a product, cyclist can be confident that the design and implementation is spot on, resulting in components that perform extremely well along with excellent durability. The only thing lacking is a premium price tag, which makes the brand’s offerings so desirable for discerning bike enthusiasts. In addition the company has great confidence in its offerings, offering a lifetime warranty on most items.
Based on what we observed at Eurobike, the Dutch-based brand has made a great effort to meet the demands of the predominantly American-based gravel bike scene. They managed to produce a collection of components and accessories which will likely to take the increasingly popular “gravel” market by storm, sounding alarm bell for the competitors.
The first new PRO offering for 2019 to immediately catch our attention was the Discover bag series. Mounted onto a bike in the show area, these waterproof bags attracted a lot of attention at Eurobike. We have learned that you may buy the Discover series bag by bag or as a complete kit, designed to hold enough equipment for an epic ride such as the increasingly popular Transcontinental Race across Europe. Due to their great success, let’s look at each model separately!
The smallest from the PRO Discover range is the top tube mounted model, this storage unit has a 765 ml capacity and offers two types of attachment options. So in addition to the traditional Velcro-strap method, the bag features also two bolts at its bottom side, allowing for a more elegant and secure attachment to frames equipped with eyelets on the top tube. This novel mounting solution makes the PRO Discover much less obtrusive, offering a classy integration with the bike.
For longer bike trips or daily commuting to work, the 15 l saddlebag could prove to be an excellent investment. It can even hold an extra set of clothes and street shoes, moreover this type of bag has better aerodynamic properties than any other bike storage unit with a similar capacity. If the rider does not want to take advantage of the full capacity, the bag can simply be folded up to take up less space.
Another quite useful model from the PRO Discover range is the inside frame mount 5.5 liter pack. It should be positioned inside the front triangle, fastened to the top tube with a pair of Velcro straps. Removal and attachment of the bag is truly practical, and it also allows easy access of equipment during the ride. For most riders, there is no need to stop to grab something stored inside. This Discover model is relatively unobtrusive on the bike, fitting nicely in the lines of the frame, staying relatively hidden from the wind as well.
Many relish the classical handlebar mounted bag. It’s undoubtedly the most convenient for grabbing stuff while riding, and the Discover series has an excellent variation on this front-mount pack. The PRO Discover handlebar bag holds up to 8 liters, the attachment is via two Velcro straps to the handlebar and there is also third point of contact with the head tube. The three-point mounting makes the Discover relatively stable, much improved to the handlebar bag designs of the past. The only downside of this bag type is increased wind drag, due mainly to its large frontal area. Nevertheless, the compromise of practicality over increased air resistance might be acceptable for multi-day riding, where the tempo and the energy expenditure is not a foremost concern.
Since the narrow road handlebars used for competitions leave something to be desired concerning safety and bike handling when riding off road, PRO product designers took to the drawing board to come up with the ideal bar geometry for “gravel” riding. The engineers have come up with two slightly different solutions. The common features for both are a full-aluminum construction, Di2 and EW-RS910 “Junction Box” compatibility. The main difference between them is that one features a wider flare, making drops angle more outward for increased comfort and stability. In addition, the shallower drop and wider hand position leaves more room for accessories such as the previously mentioned handlebar bags. The other version features less flare, but still offers a more pronounced outward bend compared to conventional road bars. This makes a fair compromise for those who not ready to ride a full-fledged gravel bike setup.
So what’s the advantage using these PRO “gravel” bars over the traditional road handlebars? They offer a more compact design with a very shallow drop, resulting in the smallest possible distance between the upper level and the bottom section of the bar. This special geometry usually involves some compromise, leaving less room for the rider’s wrists in return for a more comfortable hand and upper body position. PRO designers managed to gain extra space by flaring the drop outward, creating a bend to provide more room for the wrist.
Maybe we should also mention that the drop section of the handlebar gains special importance of gravel and off-road ventures. Riding downhills are best done in a more secure hand position, and the lower “bent” section permits the rider not only to lean on bar, but to grab onto it. The brake levers can also be actuated more effectively by pulling them towards the bar as opposed to shifter body. In addition, the drop hand position offers a lower center of gravity which is always more advantageous when riding fast and cornering. And in the case of the 2019 PRO Discover drop handlebar “duo”, stability is not only increased by the shallower drop, but also by the extra wide hand position offered by the outward bend.
The less flared of the two Pro Discover bars features a 12° outward bend, which results in some significant changes in handlebar geometry. For example, the axis of the shifters are 42cm apart on a 42cm model, but the width increases to approximately 47 cm in the drop section. The difference is more extreme in case of the full-fledged “gravel” variant: since the flare is an astonishing 30°, it measures a whooping 57cm at the drops for the 42 cm wide bar. This nearly same bar width was used by MTB XCO riders in the 90’s!
A wider handlebar helps greatly riding off-road, but the tempo and the stability of the bike can be increased even more by another very useful component: the remotely actuated “dropper” seat post. The renowned Koryak “dropper post” has been featured for many years in the PRO lineup – but these models were designed primarily for MTB riding. The Koryak range has seen a further expansion for 2019 to include a “gravel” specific variant. The new 27.2mm diameter Koryak fits most gravel and cyclocross frames, offering a modest, but quite sufficient 70 mm movement using external remote cable actuation. So now the rider finally has a chance to change the seat height with a flick of a lever from the handlebar: staying low and stable on descents, with ideal leg extension on the flat roads and uphills.
This new dropper post is not just a “downscaled” version of the Koryak MTB design, featuring some important technical differences compared to its larger siblings. For example, the slider element of the post is made of steel instead of aluminum, since it needs to handle the same load in a small seat post diameter with miniscule wall thickness. And as a consequence, the head clamp is not a single forged unit like on the previous Koryaks, rather it is glued to the steel slider piece.
These above-mentioned alterations make absolutely no difference to the actual operation, but it can explain why the smallest of the Koryak model variants is actually the heaviest, weighting a somewhat portly 610 grams. If you are not limited to a 27.2mm seat post diameter, the conventional construction technology is available in larger 30.9 and 31.6mm diameter, paired with 120, 150 and 170 mm saddle drop distance. The gigantic 170mm does not make much sense for gravel riding, but the two others might: and the medium drop version is available for an external cable routing setup. This latter offers a good match for frames designed for road handlebars. The other Koryaks all offer internal routing, so they are best matched with specific MTB bike frames. A common feature for all Koryak models is the rubber bumper on top of the clamp structure, which prevents the saddle’s plastic body from hitting the top of the seat post, causing the dreaded clicking sound while pedaling.
In addition to the above-mentioned seat post design parameters, there are two types of handlebar controls available for the Koryak models. For riders using single chainring “one-by” drive systems, there is the I-Spec clamp compatible version which performs the same way as an MTB gear shifter. This version is primarily intended for internal routed remote cabling. The other option is a traditional vertically actuated lever, requiring less space on the bar, and is much better suited to external cable routing solutions and road drop handlebars.
Continuing on the handlebar theme, the PRO’s iconic Vibe SL road bar has also undergone minor transformation for 2019. It is now 15% lighter, without any lost in stiffness according to the brand. This was accomplished by optimizing carbon fiber lay-up structure, but most the important factor, classic anatomic bend, did not change with the redesign. The handlebar is compatible internal cable routing, even if hydraulic brakes are installed. The new bar can also accept the most recent Di2 “Junction Box” unit.
PRO saddles are unfortunately less known in this country, although the brand offers one of the widest selection of shapes in order to satisfy the needs and anatomic requirements of most performance-oriented cyclist.
From the extensive PRO road saddle lineup, the Stealth is clearly the most eye-catching design. Available “only” in two widths – 142 and 152mm – it offers a fairly large surface with an unusually wide channel in the middle. The concept of an “aero” saddle sounds crazy at first, but it’s not actually the saddle that is more aerodynamic, but the rider! This innovative saddle design allows the rider to take up a more aerodynamic body position, hence the PRO Stealth is rather short, somewhat similar to the “truncated” triathlon-specific saddle models. This comparison is not a coincidence since triathletes aim to achieve the least amount of air resistance as drafting other riders is illegal at most competitions. They ride specially-modified time-trial bikes with armrests, with a straight-back “low-down” upper body position. This is the key to efficient riding on long distances, with sufficient comfort to enable running after the bike leg of the competition. Therefore the Stealth saddle is designed to provide improved stability under extreme aerodynamic body positions, and adequate support for sit bones as opposed to the delicate soft body parts underneath. It can be installed on either triathlon bikes or road time trial setups, as well as on conventional road bikes in order to achieve a more aerodynamic body position. The Stealth is clearly a high-tech design, available with either the 7 × 9 mm carbon or 7 mm diameter stainless steel alloy rails.
Other PRO road saddles are also available, generally in three widths (132mm, 142mm and 152mm) and with three types of rail options (carbon, INOX steel alloy, CroMo). The novelty for 2019 is that the stainless steel rail versions of the saddles for the two larger sizes come with gel inserts for enhanced comfort. The PRO saddle range also offers traditional shapes as well as models with pressure-relieving anatomic cutouts. They also feature practical design solutions like a mounting bracket for your camera, lights or a start number for the competitive-minded cyclist.
The PRO Falcon model is the lightest in the range with a flat design and lightly cushioned upper construction. It is best suited for riders with greater flexibility. Those possessing an average body structure, the Turnix model may be the better choice, while riders with a limited range of motion should give the Griffon model line a try. All are available in three different widths and the usual rail options.
The Turnix and Griffon saddle models are available for MTB riders with different padding and more rugged upper construction. The Volture is special model intended primarily for e-MTB riding, while for extreme MTB disciplines – such as enduro and trail riding – the rugged Tharsis might be the best choice from the PRO saddle lineup.
All the novelties mentioned in this article will be available in Hungary as early as this autumn. The prices should also be reasonable considering the high quality and reliability we come to expect from the PRO branded accessories. Test saddles will also be available for making the correct choice before purchasing.
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