I really liked the relaxed cut of this jersey - the Large is loose without being shapeless. Being an mtb top designed for use with a rucksack, there's just one flush, zippered pocket.
These 'tailored plus fours', as Rapha call them, use the remarkable Schoeller Nanosphere fabric, which is surprisingly water and stain-resistant.
At first glance, the Alturas look like they’re going to be tiny, but once on they fit really well with good contouring round the thighs.
The Element hugs the body closely, thanks to Assos’s stretchy, windproof and water repellent fabric. What else does all that cash get you?
Like baggy shorts, leisure shoes flit between your riding life and off-the-bike life far more seamlessly than your Lycra and tap dancing race shoes.
Cycle mitts provide padding and protection to two of your main contact points with the bike, rather like shorts with a chamois do for another contact point.
With less of a performance fit than other wool jerseys, this Nike woolly is a great choice for the more relaxed rides.
Wool shorts went by the wayside in the 70s, but that's because they were never this good. These are seriously comfy, and pulling them on after riding in Lycra all your life is a joy.
Fox's monolithic 40 fork has set new stiffness standards. The massive 40mm legs make them relatively stiff over small bumps, but once they're moving the titanium-sprung stroke feels great.The stiffness keeps
661's Strike has an injection-moulded polycarbonate shell with a large adjustable visor and several well located and subtle-looking air intakes. It might not be as cool to wear or as light as some, but the Strike does offer a comfy fit and good value for money, and it also has the looks of something more expensive.
The stem connects the steerer to the handlebars and for most road bike applications you choose a stem to tweak the fit of the bike.
Although there are more expensive Assos bibs in the range, the Milles are hard to beat.
How to pick the best baggy or 3/4 length cycling shorts
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Carbon composite forks are no longer just for big budget racers but encompass a wide range for all kinds of riding, from time-trial to audax and even commuting.
The D2 Open Face is a new lid aimed primarily at 4X racers, dirt jumpers, street riders and freeriders who want more vision than that of a full face helmet and also extra protection over a regular lid. It's based on the full face design and this retro-styled helmet offers a super comfy fit with good ear space and a soft padded lining that can be removed and washed when it becomes too stinky. The push buckle chin strap is simple to use even while wearing gloves. We'd be worried about our teeth, though, and at this price would prefer the all-round protection of a full-face. Great for showboaters and Star Wars fans then, but not a realistic choice for most folk.
There's one very good reason for wearing a pair of cycling shorts: comfort.
The chocolate flavour in this bar isn’t quite as real as you expect from the packaging and that seemed to let people down. However, it still had some big fans and it’s a well-packaged bar that does work in all climatic conditions. As with the performance bar, there is vitamin and mineral supplementation, but only to about half the level in this one.
We're already on record as loving the Intermediate Evo, and one year and many miles later, nothing has changed. No other jersey comes close to handling the in-between chilly/warm weather of Spring and Autumn as well at the InterEvo.
The Atlas crank was one of the first components designed for tough XC 'All Mountain' bikes, and it's still a super tough, premium piece. The stiff 'I Beam' arms are fully CNC machined from 'Optim-Al' alloy with crisp, clean edges giving the unique Race Face look. A medium walled cromo axle is fixed into the offside crank for an impressively stout feel underfoot and we've beaten the crap out of them without any worries. They are a real strain to install/remove though, so have your spinach before any spannering.
Race Face's lightest XC cranks shares the chunky family looks but has all excess weight machined away. The result is light without making you wary of giving them a wallop occasionally. The butted steel axle means they feel stiff and positive through the pedals. The splined fix onto the driveside needs some muscle to fit/remove, but once on, they're de?nitely on and we've never had loosening or creak problems mid-ride. The rings are good, durable and sweet shifting pieces too, with no trace of flex or chain fumble even under maximum power.
The Agarose is a simple, windproof gilet. The cut on the large size we tested is boxy but slim – remember this is Italian sizing – with relatively tight but comfortable arm holes.
Often considered the template for chain guides, the World Cup 1 set the benchmark many moons ago and still goes from strength to strength today. Using the double plate system, it's ideally designed for elevated chainstay bikes.
There aren't too many backpacks on the market that offer as much back protection as this. And by protection we mean protection in the armour-plated sense, ideal for freeride biased riders but thoroughly sensible for others too.
More decidedly weird looks from 661. Golf mitt? Driving glove? If you can live with the spangly white/tan combo (remove them before dealing with any mechanical issues), these are great gloves for hot days.
Specialized have upped the sizing on women’s gloves, so these are nearly two sizes larger than 2006’s. Minimal velcro fastenings keep your wrists cool but feel insecure when shredding hard. Multiple back panels mean more stitching, thus they’re hotter than they could be and there’s sweaty nylon between the fingers.
The theory behind half-and-half gloves is that the braking fingers retain full-length grip and protection, while the ring and pinky, tucked away on the bar, get the cooling of a mitt. This pair are still on the substantial side for really hot days, with a neoprene cuff making for a bit of a sweaty mess.
Serious attention to detail makes these mitts stand out from the crowd. Pull tabs at the wrists and fingertips make them easy to get on and off quickly, there’s only as much palm padding as necessary and there’s extra embossed grip.
This is another form-fitting top that's not very generous to the beer gut. However, if you ride at a speed where aerodynamics and fast wicking are an issue, then look no further.
The DeMarchi Aeros are a well-specced entry-level short that features an EIT chamois, eight-panel construction and secure silicone leg grippers. In use they're comfortably supportive and the pad is held firmly in place.
At less than £20, these six-panel shorts appear quite basic. But the fact is that they fit really well thanks to a cut that's tailored for women's hips and waists.
Mace are a Canadian rider-ownedcompany and they have come out with a strong range of riding kit for 2007. TheVolition jersey is their flagship short-sleeve riding top and it's equally at home blasting
Sugoi have a line-up of jerseys with fashionable and fun graphic prints on lightweight TechniFino. The material feels cool and comfortable next to the skin and dries quickly after hard exercising.
German manufacturers Vaude have a good range of enthusiast bike wear and specialist touring kit besides. The Dolce is something of a staple garment in a quality, poly/elasthane blend and single-colour style.
Take a look at many of the Pro Tour team cars and you’ll see this type of racking system used a lot. You get two parts in the kit and they install in about five minutes using the supplied 5mm Allen key.
King Earl is Bontrager's top 'Earl' group. It's significantly lighter compared to 'Big Earl', but still tough enough to get loony on. The chunky cold forged arms certainly feel solid when they're on tight and we've not run into any breakage problems even on dirt jump bikes. The 36/24/polycarbonate bashguard ring setup gives a really good gear range for general mucking about too. Single ring and triple setups are also available and lifespan of the Truvativ chainrings is better than average. The downside is the Truvativ Howitzer BB it runs on. It's plenty strong, with a heat treated cromo steel spindle and oversized external bearings. Unfortunately the offside ISIS connection has got a nasty habit of loosening very quickly, which can catch out even regular bolt checkers. It's massively heavy as well, which wastes the weight saving on the crank.
Middleburn has been quietly turning out beautifully sculpted cranks for well over a decade, and revisiting its retro cranks proves they're still better than most.
Crank Brothers radical hybrid design certainly looks tasty, but is it equally hungry on the trail? By using an alloy back cold-fused onto a stainless steel cover they’ve created a super stiff crank that’s unique in looking better the more you ride it. Although we burst our first set the two replacements we’ve been sent are still going strong despite a long winter of deliberately hammering them. The Truvativ-made chainrings are reasonably long lasting and shift perfectly well even under serious stress. Initial cynicism about the 'Overkill' sealing on the ISIS BB has been replaced with respect for how well the big blue contact seals have kept everything smooth after six months hard labour. The Ti axle Cobalt BB is very expensive compared to Stronglight and SKF though.
They’ve never had much presence in MTB, but Stronglight have been making excellent cranks for years and these funky beauties have really impressed us. The broad crankarms are full carbon around an alloy crank interface with a rubber window in the middle (road cranks are hollow) for absorbing shock.
These are proper 'baggy' baggies and have loads of room for a breeze and free movement. Removable inners are lightweight mesh and have a decent technical pad.
This glove provides long fingered protection and a non-padded Clarino leather palm for great feedback and feel. It also has a stretchable, mesh top and articulated fingers with minimal rubber protection. The not-wipe pad's a bit small, but it's a great all-weather, hard riding glove.
The Maverick OSB (Offset Spoke Bed) minimizes dish for a stronger, more durable wheel, and the rim builds into a package that's strong and light for the money. Our test rim absorbed a fair amount of clumsy race abuse and general riding antics, but picked up a few minor dents along the way.
FireEye may be a new name here in the UK but they arrive with a strong range of components designed in the USA, including several stems.
This bar was designed in the USA by FireEye owner Glen Groesbeck and it's ideal if you're on a tight budget. It's only available with a 31.8mm diameter and it's made from 6061-T6 aluminium, which is butted in the centre where it attaches to the stem.
As a name in the worldwide bearing industry, SKF are right up there. They've earned themselves a reputation for making high quality parts that work, which are based upon simple and functional designs and manufactured from the best materials for the job. Yet as a bottom bracket maker in the bike world, SKF remain a relatively unknown brand. But we're predicting that that should change soon, because this ISIS bottom bracket has managed to outlast everything we've tested so far.
DHB clothing is designed in the land of pizzas and pasta, and made in Bosnia, and is growing in popularity as riders come to trust the brand's ability to put together a high spec technical garment.
A traditional saddle has rails that locate into the clamp atop the seat post; it's a simple design that works well and saddles have been honed to perfection over decades.