X-Fusion may be relative newcomers to the mountain bike suspension market but their dampers have become a common sight on sub-£1,500 full-suspension bikes over the past few years. The company are now seeking to give the more established brands a run for their money in the higher-end aftermarket market, too.
The new Vector Air downhill shock has been designed to rival the Fox DHX Air and RockShox Vivid Air. It's based on X-Fusion's Vector coil shock but is roughly half the weight. The top-end HLR model pictured here weighs a claimed 450g – it's actually 487g on our scales – which is about the same as the DHX and 80g lighter than the Vivid. For comparison, our coil version weighs 921g.
It's not just about weight, though; the Vector Air also offers a high level of adjustability. On the £354.53 HLR you can tweak the air volume and air pressure, dial in your preferred level of compression (high- and low-speed) and rebound damping, and set the shock's bottom-out resistance. There's also a cheaper version, the Vector Air RC (£TBC), that does without the high-speed compression adjustment.
To combat overheating on long downhill runs, X-Fusion have used a large volume air spring, housed within a thin-walled air can. The Vector Air is available in 200x56, 215x63, 222x69, 240x76 and 267x89 sizes, via Upgrade Bikes in the UK.
Magiclight accessories for Magicshine bike lights
A couple of months back, Magiclight sent us a handlebar clamp for Magicshinebike lights. It was a simple idea, well executed. They've followed this up with two other upgrades for your Magicshine – a wide-angle lens and helmet mount.
The former is simple to fit – simply unscrew the bezel at the front of the light, swap the lenses over and make sure the ridges on the new lens are orientated vertically – and very effective. Instead of an extremely bright 'hotspot', the wide-angle lens provides a wider, though not quite as bright, spread of light. It'll also fit Lupine and Gemini lights, and costs just £4.
The helmet mount uses a similar quick-release system to the Magiclight bar clamp and attaches to your lid via a single Velcro strap. We tried it on a Bell Presidio, where we found that the rounded underside of the mount (due to the strap passing between the flat base plate and its foam padding) caused our test light to tip forwards and backwards.
This rocking issue may not be a problem on flatter-topped lids, and it would be simple enough to sort with a longer base plate, flatter underside or wider strap. In fact, just cutting a bit of foam from the base would help. RRP is £15.
Answer ProTAPER 685 XC handlebar
Fear not: Answer’s 7050 alloy ProTAPER 685 XC handlebar does come in a range of colours, not just anodised pink with a black flowery design. It’s also available in black, 'brunette', green, red and 'mango'. It's 685mm wide and is respectably light, weighing in at 235g (flat) or 265g (12.7mm or 25.4mm rise).
It features Answer's ProTAPER technology, which adds extra material in the stem clamp (31.8mm) and rise/sweep sections. The riser bars have four degrees of upsweep and eight degrees of backsweep, while the flat version just has three degrees of backsweep. Cut marks on the ends of the bar make it easy to chop it to your desired length. RRP is £54.99.
Royal Racing Drift kit
Flown in fresh from America is the latest Royal Racing kit. Designed with input from Knolly-sponsored freerider Garett Buehler, this gear is aimed at the freeride/all-mountain market. The long-sleeved Drift jersey (£29.99) is a simple, classic design made from quick-drying polyester. It's available in sizes from XS to XXL and two colours: black/ash or red/ash.
The matching Drift shorts (£69.99) are constructed from perforated 600D Cordura fabric for maximum ventilation and durability. There's a waterproof back panel to protect against back wheel spray, along with an internal mesh liner and adjustable waist. The shorts are available in the same colours and sizes as the jersey, but also in yellow/ash. Keep an eye out for a full review in What Mountain Bike magazine.
Muc-Off Drivetrain Cleaner
Muc-Off reckon that the latest addition to their line-up, Drivetrain Cleaner, works equally well whether it's poured into a chain bath or sprayed directly onto your bike's drivetrain. It's designed to break down dirt, oil and grime on your chain, sprockets and derailleurs. A 500ml bottle costs £12.
The Helmet and Visor Cleaner (£2.99 for 35ml spray) is biodegradable – like many of Muc-Off's products, including the Drivetrain Cleaner – and is said to leave a streak-free finish. It fits neatly into small pockets and has a pH neutral formula that's said to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria.
Jagwire HyFlow Quick-Fit brake hose kit
Jagwire's new high-performance HyFlow hoses combine a tough Kevlar reinforced outer with a slippery Teflon liner. The key feature, however, is the Quick-Fit universal calliper adaptors. These are compatible with popular brake systems from the likes of Avid, Shimano and Magura, and should make the hoses quick and straighforward to fit, especially as the pack includes a hose cutter and needle driver. There are 13 colour options. RRP TBC.
This cycling accessories firm was started a little over a decade ago by two Texans returning from the Milan Bike Show in Italy, following the brainwave that they should design their own gear rather than flog somebody else's. From these humble beginnings they've risen to supply Garmin-Barracuda in the pro peloton. They've just acquired new UK distributors in the shape of Saddleback, who've wasted no time in getting us up to speed on the brand.
Arundel Mandible bottle cage
Bottle cages, bar tape and seat bags are what Arundel deal in and shown here are some examples. On the cage front there's something for everyone. The high-end carbon fibre Mandible (£45) has a foam core to keep weight down to just 28g, while the Sideloader and OtherSideloader (£40) are shaped to make holstering easier, allowing you to insert your bottle sideways.
Just make sure you buy the right one – the Sideloader accepts bottles from the left when mounted on the down tube and from the right when fixed to the seat tube, while the OtherSideloader works the opposite way round. So if you only run one bottle, choose carefully. If you run two bottles, buy one of each.
Arundel OtherSideloader bottle cage
At the budget end of the spectrum come the Stainless Steel (£20) and Sport (£10). The former is a solidly built, 58g touring cage, with a polished finish and capable of holding standard sized bottles. The latter is a 50g, plastic (nylon reinforced) cage in a choice of black, white, red, blue, yellow or pink.
All three of Arundel’s bar tape varieties cost £12. Gecko Fur is made from EVA foam with a moleskin-feel outer layer and is designed to improve grip in wet or dry conditions. Gecko Grip is made from the same material, but with a laminated, rubbery, polyurethane outer layer, said to be ideal for spring and summer riding. It’s available in black, white, red, blue and yellow. The Cork tape, available in the same colours, is made from foam with bits of cork thrown in, improving grip, reducing vibration and soaking up moisture, perfect for winter training.
Arundel Gecko Grip
Also available at £12 are two nylon saddle bags, the Tubi and the smaller Dual. Both have a leather patch on top that bears the maker’s name – this isn't just advertising, it's designed to protect them from saddle clamp rub.
Arundel Tubi (left) and Dual saddle bags
Great Elm Physick Garden skincare products
It’s not often we receive cycling recovery products such as massage oil and deep heat rubs, but that’s exactly what we have here from Somerset-based organic skincare firm Great Elm Physick Garden. The Deep Massage Oil (£15.75/200ml) is one of four new products in their Sports range and is packed full of natural ingredients, such as rosemary, bay leaves and clove, to ease joints and muscles and sooth pain from strenuous training. It’s enough to make us want to sample it, rather than write about it from the discomfort of our desk.
Deep Down Heat (£14.75/50ml) warms your bones and muscles pre- and post-exercise and contains the pain-relieving chilli extract. The S.O.S Skin Salve (£12.75/50ml) is said to prevent chafing and soreness, perfect for putting the brakes on saddle sores and other uncomfortable saddle related problems. All their products are available directly from their website now.