The latest mountain bike products to hit our desks for testing include a set of new carbon fibre wheels from ENVE Composites and some essential pieces of kit that’ll help keep you out on the trails this winter. Look out for reviews in What Mountain Bike in the new year.
ENVE Composites Twenty9 XC wheels
These technologically advanced, carbon-rimmed wheels challenge the notion that being strong equals heavy. After all, Steve Peat and the Santa Cruz Syndicate have run ENVE all-mountain wheels successfully for two years on the World Cup downhill circuit.
Our test set is the 29in cross-country version (26in, all-mountain and tubular versions are also available), built with Chris King ISO hubs and 32 Sapim CX Ray spokes per wheel. In the US, these hoops will set you back $2,550. UK distributors Saddleback currently sell rims only (the 29in clinchers used here are £750 each) but say complete wheels should be available from January.
Claimed weight for our test set is 1,534g. Given that you can buy a lighter alloy wheelset for less than half the price (eg. Stan's NoTubes 29er Race Gold, 1,345g, $950), what's the benefit of the carbon construction? The answer is in the ride quality.
While alloy rims can be flexy if too many grams are shaved, or conversely so rigid they give a harsh ride feel, carbon can be manipulated to create a rim that's super-stiff in terms of power delivery and steering accuracy, yet soaks up the vibrations and trail patter that can prove wearing on longer rides, improving control and comfort.
Of course, carbon isn't an entry-level material and rims like these UST tubeless ENVE ones are something most of us will lust after and have to save up for. But they're starting to be seen as the final piece of the jigsaw in the quest for a perfect bike.
Sidi Dragon 3 Carbon shoes
The latest Dragon Carbon is more of an update than a wholesale revamp, with the main change being a new rubber toe bumper to offer greater protection against rocks and scuffs. You can also adjust the width at the Achilles tendon, to prevent heel slip. As always with Sidi, construction and fit is top-notch. The Lorica upper has a narrow fit but based on past experience, once broken in it's comfortable for wider feet as well.
Being a handmade Italian shoe, the Dragon 3 comes with a hefty pricetag: £309.99. If it's out of your price range, even Sidi's entry-level shoes have the same quality design behind them. The Dragon 3 is available in sizes 42-46, via Big Bear in the UK.
Oakley Windstopper gloves
A decent pair of weather resistant gloves can make the difference between going out for a winter ride or staying slumped by the fire. Oakley have a reputation for producing quality kit and these windproof gloves are no exception.
The Gore Windstopper fabric offers resistance to cold winds and dropping temperatures, and it's breathable, too – so no sweaty, clammy fingers. These gloves also have leather reinforced palms and fingertips. They cost £45 and are available in sizes XS to XL.
Muc-Off Ultimate Bicycle Kit
This handy toolkit-style box from Muc-Off contains their pink biodegradable bike cleaner and Bike Spray shine treatment, along with a can of drivetrain cleaner, a bottle of wet lube, a sponge and microfibre cloth.
There's also a selection of brushes, including a claw brush for those hard to reach grimy sprockets and a large washing brush with soft bristle tips. Basically everything that muddy mountain bikers need in their shed this winter. RRP is £39.99.
Selle Italia SLR Superflow saddle
The most obvious feature of this new titanium-railed saddle from Selle Italia is the whopping great hole in the middle of it. This extra-large cutout is intended to relieve pressure on the sensitive perineal area and ensure maximum comfort on long rides. So numb nuts could be a thing of the past. We'll be interested to see how it works in practice.
The SLR Superflow is available in a standard 130mm width and also a 145mm version. This should make it more comfortable on longer rides for the 'bigger-boned' chaps among us. Despite its size, it weighs in at a mere 193g on our scales. RRP is £160. Selle Italia saddles are available from Chicken Cycle-Kit in the UK.
Charge Griddle grips
New in from Charge are these Griddle grips, in a festive red. The white bits aren't a different compound, they're holes in the outer layer of rubber that expose the white core of the grip underneath. The Griddles are a good width (ie. thin) and feel relatively grippy, with a single inboard lock-on collar. RRP is £17.99.