11spd: This week’s best new bike gear

Merida, Focus and Specialized bikes


Nothing of note has happened this week so we’re feeling pretty chilled in the BikeRadar office, just tweaking our Christmas lists and doing the occasional pumpkin-spice fart to pass the time. The working week is nearly at an end so to get you through those final, gaseous hours, here are 11 bits of bikery for your perusal. It’s 11spd, folks…

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New mountain bikes and gear

Merida Big Nine Team 2017

Merida’s Big Nine Team has been thoroughly reworked for 2017
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media
This is the latest Big Nine Team from Merida, an out and out race bike from a company that is particularly good at making those. Owing a little over 8.6 kg (18.95lbs) to our scales, it’s road bike light without Merida resulting to using fragile, race-only parts.The whole package has been thoroughly reworked from the last generation bike. There’s an all-new carbon frame that’s longer and lighter than ever before. Gone are the aluminium inserts and front derailleur mount you’d find on the previous model, saving quite a bit of weight in the process. Straying away from the upside-down Rockshox RS-1 fork that was everywhere last season, this year’s Big Nine Team sports the latest generation SID World Cup instead.

A wider bar plus a shift to SRAM’s top-drawer XX1 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain combined with the ability to take on a dropper post reflect the progressively gnarly path that cross-country racing finds itself on.

We’ve already handed it across to our lean, mean cross-country machine Joe ‘mountain goat’ Norledge, who will keep you updated.

£5,500 / €5,699

www.merida-bikes.com

Mudhugger The Left One front mudguard for Lefty forks

At last, a Lefty-fit front mudguard from the Mudhugger boys
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media
Owners of bikes with Cannondale’s Lefty forks may have previously been disappointed by the amount of dedicated front mudguards available, but now, thanks to a new offering from UK brand Mudhugger, there’s some good news.Yes, the Cyclops of the suspension world has been granted its own dedicated version of the Mudhugger front guard, a product that we’ve tested in the past with much success.

To fit the guard it’s necessary to fit a starnut to the bottom of the fork’s steerer, along with a spacer, washer and bolt. Installation is a faff that is made endlessly easier by the fact this additional hardware comes pre-packaged with each Lefty Mudhugger. A useful YouTube tutorial vid has been made for anyone looking to take this task on. The complete kit tipped our scales at exactly 135g.

£35 / international pricing TBC (international shipping available)

www.themudhugger.co.uk

Scicon Race Rain kit bag

Scicon’s Race Rain kit bag swallows a pair of UK size 12s with ease
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media
Always pulling out single gloves and misplacing your favourite kit? Then perhaps it’s time you had a look at this kit bag from Scicon.Okay, so it’s not strictly mountain bike kit, in fact it’s designed primarily for roadies, but we reckon this bag is ideal for those who race ‘cross and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be useful for cross-country riders either.

Split into separate labeled sections, there are dedicated compartments for your jersey and shorts, jackets and vests plus shoes, gloves and any warmers you may be carrying too. The central shoe section is large enough to easily swallow a pair of UK size 12s and there’s a zipped side pocket for any additional items you may want to carry.

Two carry handles mean you can lug it around in a few different ways but some will probably be disappointed by the lack of shoulder strap. Usefully, when empty, the Race Rain Bag packs down totally flat. Although sold with the roadie in mind, we think it’s a good pick for ‘cross riders too.

Oh, and don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Brit called O. Woodman either, Scicon will customise the bag with your name and national flag at no extra cost. Limited edition versions are available from teams such as Etixx Quick-Step, Wiggle High5 and Tinkoff.

£95 / US$140 / €120 / AU$TBC

www.sciconbags.com

Maxxis Minion DHR II Wide Trail tyre

A Maxxis Minion DHR II but for wider rims
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media
The Minion DHR II has already been around a while and is known best for its tenacious hold during cornering and braking. However, the world of tyres and rims is one that rarely stands still, and the shift towards wider rims calls for differences in rubber — hence the extra two letters on the name of this tyre.Yep, WT stands for Wide Trail, a different casing option from Maxxis that’s optimised around rims with an inner width of 35mm. Differences in the construction combined with an altered tread spacing mean that rubber ends up where it’s supposed to work best, and to us that can only be a good thing.

These are also tubeless ready (TR) and use the firm’s 3C Maxx Terra and feature Maxxis’ EXO protection sidewalls, meaning boosted abrasion and cut resistance comes as standard. Currently they’re available for 26in, 650b and 29in wheels in a choice of two compounds. We’ve passed them over to MBUK for a good hard thrashing.

£60 / US$79 / AU$TBC

www.maxxis.com

FitBark Dog Activity Monitor

Poppy, BikeRadar’s canine tester, is pleased to be trying out the FitBark
Jon Woodhouse / Immediate Media
We’re now living in the era of the quantified human being, with gadgets and sensors that let us know how much exercise we’re getting, how well we’re sleeping and so forth. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that man’s (and woman’s) best friend should get in on the action. Enter the FitBark, which uses a neat sensor that you mount to the collar of your furry mate. Using the same sensor trickery as a human activity monitor, but with algorithms designed especially for canine companions, it monitors both exercise and rest. Using a phone based app you input the weight, age and breed of your furry beast and then it gives you suggested activity targets to ensure a healthy hound. Seeing as dogs are notoriously poor at small talk, it also monitors the quality of their sleep and rest time, which FitBark says can give you a heads up with any health issues that might be troubling your dog. The app also allows you to compare your dog’s vital statistics to similar hounds the world over. Strava for dogs? We’ll see.

Poppy the dog, BikeRadar’s Editor of Chewing Things, Chasing Stuff and Sniffing, has stepped up to the challenge of testing the device, which comes in a number of colours. She’s obviously opted for pink, which matches her delicate, almost flower-like nature. She’ll be passing her feedback to us in due course.

£59.95 / US$69.95 / AU$TBC

New road bikes and kit

Focus Paralane AL 105

The Focus Paralane AL 105 is an all-road, all-weather machine
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

Here at BikeRadar we love versatile bikes and the announcement of the Paralane all-roader early this year certainly piqued our interest. We’ve now got our hands on the aluminium version of this fat-tyred disc road bike, kitted out with Shimano 105 components, RS505 hydraulic levers, and DT Swiss-rimmed alloy clinchers. 28mm tyres and mudguards (fenders!) come as standard, and geometry is very much at the endurance end of the spectrum, with a 165mm head tube on this 54cm bike.The Paralane’s frameset is built for compliance with a wide, flattened top tube, similarly-profiled seat stays, and a super skinny 25.4mm seatpost. It sports 12mm thru-axles that use Focus’ RAT quick-release design, and at the dropouts it neatly swallows the mudguard stays, securing them with grub screws (there are conventional threaded bosses as well).

The Paralane’s mudguard stays disappear into the dropouts
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media
As pictured, this bike weighs 10.2kg. If SRAM is your jam, an Apex 1×11 build is available as an alternative.£1,499 / $NA / AU$2,499 (Australia gets SRAM Apex build only at this price point)

Focus Bikes

Specialized Allez DSW SL Comp

The Specialized Allez DSW SL Comp is as racy as they come
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

It seems to be an alloy sort of week here, and this machine makes use of metal in a way that’s a little bit out of the ordinary. DSW stands for “D’Aluisio Smartweld” and even a cursory glance at this bike will confirm that there’s something a bit weird going on. Rather than simply sticking tubes together at their ends in the conventional fashion, DSW relocates the joins to optimise stiffness and weight, indeed Specialized says this is the stiffest alloy bike they’ve ever tested. (No, we don’t know how many bikes they’ve tested…)