It’s very nearly December, which means there are just 25 more days to ride your bike before Christmas dinner undoes all your hard work. To help with the run up, here is some nerdy bike content to indulge in.
Thomson seatposts are among our favouritesJack Luke / Immediate Media
The stems are available in just about every configuration imaginable and the seatposts — with their super-hardy forged heads and high-quality hardware — are among the easiest to use and most solid on the market.
The X4 stem opens up interesting light-mounting optionsJack Luke / Immediate Media
Peaty’s drivetrain degreaser makes a thick foam to coat your chain, which should help to remove the grimeImmediate Media
With not-so-subtle endorsement from multiple downhill world champ, Steve Peat, Peaty’s Products markets itself as a mountain bike product specialist. But we’ve already found their degreaser works just as well on road bikes as mountain bikes. It froths up fast, making it easy to completely cover the chain, chainring(s) and jockey wheels.
That’s our first impression, anyway. We’ll have a full review after we’ve pitted it against its main rivals.
Commencal’s British Meta TR gets a burlier fork and British Racing Green paint jobImmediate Media
Mountain biking in the UK has always been a bit different to the rest of Europe. Here, the remit of a trail bike is often pushed well into downhill-territory, and British riders typically value descending capability over climbing speed.
Commencal hope to cater to this MTB yob culture with this British edition of the Meta TR — their 130mm travel 29er trail bike.
In addition to the British Racing Green paint-job, the ‘British’ bike gets a bigger fork (a 150mm travel Fox 36 instead of a 140mm travel RockShox Pike), grippy tyres, powerful brakes and Renthal cockpit with a full 800mm bar width.
It’s due to be available from November 30, 2018. Ironically, it’s priced in euros (3,999 of them to be precise). Of course, the price in Great British Pounds may vary (probably by a lot) over the coming months.
DT Swiss hopes to compete with the big suspension players with their F535 forkImmediate Media
DT Swiss has been manufacturing mountain-bike forks for years without a great deal of mainstream uptake. But with the F535, it’s hoping to compete with the biggest names in MTB suspension. DT touts the F535 as a RockShox Pike rival — although our 29er model weighs considerably more, at 2,160g.
The fork’s USP is a position-sensitive damper. The compression damping gets firmer as you move deeper into the travel. This is designed to maximise sensitivity at the start of the travel, while providing more support in the mid-stroke.
The rebound and low-speed compression are adjustable via a T10 Torx key, which is held in the axle. The dials and air valve are covered up to keep the crown looking neat. The covers are removed using the Torx key before adjusting compression damping or air pressure. Disrupting those clean lines is a lockout lever on top — this can be replaced with a remote lockout.
We’ve already tested a pre-production F535, which DT Swiss claims wasn’t performing as well as it should. This off-the-shelf fork will be tested by our suspension connoisseur, Seb Stott, against nine others for our annual forks group test. Stay tuned.
This old-school MTB /BMX jersey from Hackney GT is expertly modelled by our workshop manager, JonnyImmediate Media
This retro-style jersey is made in England, and designed for mountain bike, BMX and even motocross use. It’s made from 100% polyester (like most downhill/moto-style jerseys), and features Lycra cuffs for a tighter fit around the wrist. It’s available in six sizes, from XS to XXL, so should fit most riders.
Hackney GT (no connection with the bike brand GT) is based in London, offering riding kit for all major cycling disciplines. It say its jerseys are built to last, though you’ll need a good washing powder to keep this white number looking as fresh as it does here.
We’ve got this massive front mudguard just in time for the worst winter weather. Bring it on!Immediate Media
If your local trails are anything like ours, a substantial front mudguard could become a useful addition to your mountain bike. The RRP Proguard isn’t brand new, but this max protection version is new to us.
It’s 7cm longer than the standard version, and one of the longest fork-mounted mudguards on the market. It offers protection from almost the 9 o’clock position on the front wheel, to well in front of the fork.
Hopefully, this should stop spray flicking up into your eyes when riding. It also features a pair of seal guards protruding down behind the fork to stop muck getting onto the fork seals.
This hand-built beast is designed to tackle the roughest tracks, with just one gearImmediate Media
The Sturn is a steel, single-speed, 29er, high-pivot, custom-geometry, hand-built downhill bike (phew!).
It’s the latest creation to come out of Starling founder, Joe McEwan’s, garden shed where he has hand-built a few trail bike models, which we’ve already reviewed.
This beast is built for downhill racing, and has already been piloted to fourth place at the 2018 Masters’ World Champs.
A shaft runs through the suspension pivot, connecting the two chains that drive the wheelImmediate Media
The single-speed design is claimed to keep things simple and reliable, while allowing the use of a jack shaft, which spins inside the main pivot to power the rear wheel via a half-link chain. The jack shaft is, in turn, driven by a second chain coming from the left-hand crank arm.
If you think the single gear will make the Sturn a lightweight, forget it. It weighs 18kg on our scales. The high pivot suspension, combined with zero chain growth, should result in super-sensitive suspension though.
Our sample’s geometry is very radical. It’s got a long, 1310mm, wheelbase, and a slack 61-degree head angle. Most strikingly of all, the bottom bracket sits at 320mm. That’s far lower than any other DH bike, which usually measure around 350mm to compensate for their longer suspension travel. With numbers like that, you’d need to be careful pedalling this bike over anything remotely rocky, even if the single gear wasn’t a problem.
We’re looking forward to riding the Sturn in anger to see how it works.
Scicon are better known for their saddle packs than saddles, but the Elan appears to be a promising optionImmediate Media
Scicon is the Italian brand behind some of the most popular bike bags and boxes. If you ever see a pro travelling with their bike, nine times out of ten it’ll be wrapped in a Scicon case.
The company has now branched out into saddles (it already made saddlepacks) and it looks properly thought-out, in a fashionable short style, measuring up at 240mm nose to tail and 144mm at its widest.
The profile lifts at the nose and tail and drops in the centre, much like a super-shortened Fizik Aliante. The upper is deeply padded and has a generous channel and cut-out.
Underneath, it’s a one-piece UD carbon rail slotted into a carbon/nylon base. At 206g, its reasonably light and is available in a limited-edition pack like the one we have with an Elan saddlepack (loaded with patches, tube, tyre levers and a C02 adaptor) or just the saddle alone.
We’re looking forward to seeing if Scicon can make a saddle as good as their bike transport.
Shimano’s new RC901 road shoe sees subtle but (hopefully) beneficial changes over the much-loved RC900Immediate Media
At first glance, Shimano’s latest range-topping RC9 looks pretty similar to the previous RC-9 (or S-Phyre as its more commonly known). But it has made a few changes that should keep the S-Phyre in the running as one of our favourite premium shoes.
The uniquely designed sole comprises a hardwearing, injection-moulded sculpted foam with a super-stiff carbon plate bonded to the cleat section (with clear precise graphics to make getting cleat positioning easier).
The upper is bonded to the base — and the shaped heel-cup provides loads of foot stability. The upper is also now one-piece (the RC900 looked one-piece but had mesh inserts) and has perforations to provide breathability, more compliance and comfort. Shimano also claims this new upper construction makes them a tad more aerodynamic too.
Visually they’ve been improved too with colour-coordinated heel-cups to match the upper and soles, and they’re available in a stealthy black, white with a metallic silver sole, fluoro with a fluoro sole, and the classic Shimano blue we have here.
Shimano also managed to shave a few grams too, with this test pair tipping the scales at 578g a pair, compared to the 582g of our previous SH-R900’s. Yeah that’s a minimal saving, but we love the styling improvements all the same.
The Ampler Stout is an e-bike in disguiseImmediate Media
Ampler’s take on the town/commuter e-bike is one we like. The bike looks like a simple, stylish European town bike the likes of which you’ll see throughout bike-friendly cities.
It looks, well, just like a bike thanks to the clever integration of (Panasonic) batteries within the standard-looking frame. The batteries are replaceable but you’ll need to remove the bottom bracket first — so it’s not a quick job.
The hub motor produces up to 350W of assistance in boost modeImmediate Media
It’s driven with a 250w rear hub motor and the hidden battery providing 336wh in reserve. The system turns on with a single button mounted at the bottom of the seat tube. It comes set up as EU compliant (250w/25kph) and it tipped our scales at 16.9kg — not bad for an e-bike.
The integrated rear lights are a €150 option, but after picking the bike up and riding it, the 20km home in the dark on an unlit towpath the light proved more than ample. The pick-up of the assistance is quick and feeds in well with no jarring or jolts.
Controls on the bike are non-existent (save for the on/off button that you can also switch modes with). Instead the bike relies on a clever app. Via the settings menu a set of sliders mean you can tweak the settings to have a bit more fun.
In the boost mode, you can ramp up the power (and speed limit) to 350w and 35kph (22mph). We’d should point out though, that it may be illegal to ride it like this on the road, depending on where you live…