The weekend is finally upon us and with it comes another installment of our Friday Five-a-side round up of some the most interesting road cycling and mountain biking gear that has recently landed at BikeRadar HQ. Take a closer look at what we'll be testing in the upcoming weeks and months.
New road cycling gear
Easton EC90 Aero 55 Tubular wheels
Easton touts its new EC90 Aero 55 Tubular as the ideal 'one wheel' solution for riders and racers seeking a lightweight and aerodynamic wheelset that's still highly manageable in blustery conditions. Easton certainly nails the lightweight portion of that formula, with actual weights of 587g for the front wheel, 766g for the rear, and 141g for the pair of included (internal cam) skewers.
We'll have to wait for some tunnel time to objectively verify Easton's claim that the new 55mm-deep Fantom rim profile is the "fastest 50-60mm wheel on the market" but spring in the Colorado Front Range should give us plenty of opportunity to test the very wide and bluntly shaped rims' handling personality in blustery crosswinds.
Easton's flagship wheels get an all-new Echo hub design too, with extra-wide bearing spacing, improved seals, and angular contact cartridges for increased wheel stiffness and durability relative to the previous R4 SL model.
US$2,400 / £1,799.98 / €2,100
fi'zi:k Cyrano R1 handlebar and Cyrano stem
fi'zi:k has expanded its Spine Concept philosophy to a new range of road handlebars and stems for 2014. Our Cyrano R1 shoots the gap with its middle-of-the-road Chameleon bend that features 135mm of drop, 85mm of reach and a semi-anatomic curve. Carbon construction keeps the weight of our 40cm (c-c) sample down to just 206g.
The matching Cyrano stem is offered with either a -7-degree or hyper-aggressive -20-degree angle, both with forged aluminium construction and self-aligning Torx-head titanium hardware. The actual weight for our 100mm x -7-degree sample is 123g.
Cyrano R1 handlebar: US$300 / £229.99 / AU$360
Cyrano stem: US$125 / £89.99 / AU$140
Gaerne Carbon Speedplay G.Chrono shoes
We've noted the tremendous stiffness of Gaerne's full carbon fibre road shoe plates before, and the latest Carbon Speedplay G.Chrono model looks to continue the trend with dual reinforcing ribs that run from the base of the four-plate interface all the way to the replaceable heel tread.
Supple synthetic upper materials, plentiful mesh panels, well shaped footbeds and twin Boa cable reels suggest that the Carbon Speedplay G.Chrono should be comfortable over the long haul, with an even fit across the top of the foot and ample ventilation.
Our size 43 test pair weighs 598g with insoles.
US$450 / £299 / €319
Ritchey WCS Zeta II wheels
Ritchey's new WCS Zeta II aluminium road clincher wheelset shares little more than a name with its predecessor. The rims are now tubeless-compatible and have grown in width to a healthier 17mm (internal width). They're laced with bladed stainless steel spokes to all-new cartridge bearing hubs with cleverly hidden flanges.
The so-called Phantom Flange design yields an impressively clean and uncluttered appearance, but Ritchey has also cleverly managed to do so while still using conventional J-bend spokes for easy sourcing when replacements are needed. Brass nipples are used to boost long-term durability, but total weight is still just 1,499g (652g front, 847g rear, plus 91g for skewers).
Owners of Ritchey Break-Away or S&S coupler-equipped machines will also find appeal in one particularly neat trick: the freehub body (with the attached cassette) and rear axle can be instantly removed without tools, cutting the width of the wheel roughly in half for easier packing.
We've already got our test set stuffed in a case for our upcoming trip to Taipei. Time for some scooter surfing…
US$949.95 / £610 / €699
Van Dessel Hellafaster frameset
Hot off the heels of its made-in-USA Aloominator cyclocross frameset, Van Dessel is now adding a road variant that will also be TIG-welded from custom 6061 aluminium tubing by Zen Fabrication in Portland, Oregon. Features on the new Hellafaster include a tapered head tube, PF30 bottom bracket shell, machined dropouts, offset and slim-profile seat stays, and dual routing for electronic or mechanical drivetrains.
Frame geometry is essentially carried over from Van Dessel's carbon fibre Rivet model but with increased clearance for 28mm tyres. Our early-production test sample came with an Enve Composites 2.0 carbon fork (an upcharge of US$250) but standard Hellafasters will come with a new broad-stance house-brand model.
The actual weight for our totally bare 52cm sample is 1,250g.
US$1,499 / £958 / AU$1,780
New mountain biking gear
Michelin Wild Rock'R 2 tyres
Michelin's new enduro-focused Wild Rock'R 2 tyres actually look to live up to the requirements of the burgeoning sport. They have a relatively low-profile and ramped center tread designed to make climbing a little less taxing, burly side knobs and multiple sipes to boost cornering performance on the way down, and a reinforced dual-ply casing built to withstand some serious punishment on dry terrain so that you can actually finish your segment.
Michelin offers the Rock'R 2 in 26, 27.5 (650b), and 29in diameters, all with a true-to-size 2.35in width and in your choice of standard Gum-X or low-rebound Magi-X dual-compound rubber. We received a 27.5 x 2.35in sample of each, which weighed 1,075g and 1,117g.
The BikeRadar UK team have already taken a first ride in on the Wild Rock'R 2s, but the US team now have a set in for long-term testing.
US$99.99 / £102.99
Industry Nine 27.5in Enduro wheels
Industry Nine has completely revamped its long-running Enduro model with brand-new rims, hubs and spokes. The new tubeless-compatible aluminium rims feature a very generous 26mm inner width to better support high-volume tyres, while the updated hubs slim down and add seals as compared to earlier versions but retain their ultra-speedy 3-degree engagement speed.
Industry Nine's trademark anodised aluminium spokes carry over but even those have been reshaped for improved durability while still supposedly being a bit lighter than before – and of course, they're still offered in a wide range of colours.
Actual weight for our test set is 1,707g, with 142x12mm and 100x15mm through-axle end caps and a SRAM XD driver body.
US$1,210 / £880
Pedro's Pro T/L Torx wrench set
Component makers continue to move away from traditional hex-head hardware to Torx fittings and for serious work, those cheap L-keys that you previously used occasionally just won't cut it. Pedro's Pro T/L Torx wrench set features long lengths for leverage, moulded soft-touch plastic handles for comfort, and heat-treated S2 tool steel for durability. More importantly, each of the wrenches is covered by Pedro's lifetime warranty.
Included in the set are T7, T10, T15, T20, T25, T30, and T40 sizes.
US$65 / £48.03 / €57
Smith Optics Forefront helmet
Smith Optics has truly upended the apple cart with the radical Forefront helmet. Instead of a traditional expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner, the Forefront instead primarily uses a collapsible honeycomb of hollow plastic cells called Koroyd. According to Smith Optics, Koroyd absorbs 30 percent more impact energy than EPS to help reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injuries.
Koroyd's unique form factor should also make for excellent breathability, though perhaps at the cost of flow-through ventilation given the radial layout of the tubes. Smith has packed in the features, too, which include an integrated mount for a GoPro camera or light, an easily adjustable VaporFit retention system, a tilt-adjustable visor, goggle strap guides, and real carbon fibre accents.
Our sized medium sample weighs 331g with visor. And don't fret if orange isn't your thing; Smith Optics offers the Forefront in 10 different colour options.
US$220 / £N/A / €220
SwissStop disc brake pads
SwissStop is best known for its outstanding rim brake pads for road bikes, but it also offers 32 different styles of disc brake pads in sintered metallic and organic compounds. Certain fitments are even offered in E-bike-specific compounds with a more forgiving friction profile and extra-long wear.
We took delivery of a set of organic-compound Disc 31 pads for a set of persistently squawky Avid X0 Trail brakes and they quietened right down.
Organic compound: US$29.99 / £21.99 / €24.30 / AU$37.95 (per wheel)
Sintered metallic compound: US$33.99 / £24.99 / €28.50 / AU$43.95 (per wheel)
E-bike compound: US$26.99 / £N/A / €21.90 / AU$35.95 (per wheel)