All hail First Look Friday, your weekly look at the hottest new road and mountain bike swag to land at BikeRadar HQ.
This week we have some flashy Russian-made road hubs, a step-through mountain bike designed for older riders, an alarmingly light saddle and some shred-tastic goggle-like shades.
If that isn’t quite enough to tickle your tech pickle, nuggets lovingly picked from the rich gold seam that is launch season in the cycling world that have made their way onto the BikeRadar homepage this week include Cervélo’s new go-fast gravel bike, Colnago’s bang-on-trend V3RS, Specialized’s first-ever foray into the world of electric bikes, Yeti’s all-new 27.5in-wheeled SB165 and much, much more.
In the meantime, sit back, relax and immerse yourself into a world of true tech nerdery.
Raketa road hubs
Raketa — a Russian brand specialising in high-end hubs — has just launched these delectable road hubs. The hubs have been two years in the making and are its first-ever road offering, previously only producing track hubs.
The hubs are compatible with all current axle standards and Raketa claims that, due to the hubs’ construction, adapting them to any future standards should also be possible.
The hubs are built around an Alto Cycling freehub. This 4-pawl freehub is made in the USA and boasts a near-instantaneous 2.5-degree engagement. It is availble in XD, Shimano HG or Campagnolo bodies.
Raketa claims that it considered developing its own freehub system but, acknowledging that it is a young company with limited resources, it decided to focus on the hub itself, leaving the whole freewheelin’ business to those who have experience in the area.
The hubs are triple-sealed, with labyrinth seals on the end caps, a rubber lip on the freehub and sealed bearings rounding out the package.
On the subject of bearings, the hubs are built around NSK bearings and, should these develop any play, a small bolt can be undone to adjust the preload. No special tools are required to do this and it is claimed that it can even be done with the wheels still fitted to the bike.
The hubs are claimed to weigh 342g for a rim brake hubset and 421g for the disc equivalent — a respectable figure that is comparable to similar premium hubs with inbuilt preload adjustment (lighter hubs exist but they typically don’t feature external preload adjustment).
The hubs are available in any spoke drilling from 12 to 32 spokes, with any custom combination possible. Raketa has in-house anodising facilities, so dozens of different colours in either a gloss or matt finish are available. Custom engraving is also offered.
The hubs are available in rim and disc brake options. 6-bolt hubs are currently available for discs, with centre lock to follow later in the year.
The novelty that the hubs are designed and made in St Petersburg, Russia — a nation not widely known for its cycling manufacturing provenance — also undoubtedly adds to their cool factor.
The hubs cost $468 for the disc version and $448 for the rim brake version. While certainly not cheap, they (on paper at least) present decent value for money compared to, say, a DT Swiss 240s hubset (approx $560).
The hubs are due to start shipping throughout August and September, with pre-orders now open. International pricing is not available but worldwide shipping is offered.
If freewheelin’ ain’t your thing, as mentioned, Raketa also produces a number of track bike hubs, chainrings and cogs, all of which look as lovely as its road hubs.
- Disc hubs: $468
- Rim brake hubs: $448
- Buy these delightful road hubs direct from Raketa
Islabikes launched the Janis, Joni and Jimi — a range of bikes designed specifically for older riders who still want to live life on two wheels — earlier this year.
We have got a hold of the Jimi — the step-through mountain bike from the range — for testing and, so far, we like what we see.
Much like its expansive selection of early-life tot-to-teen-sized bikes, the Icons range features a number of touches that are designed to make cycling a more accessible and enjoyable experience for those in their golden years.
Starting with the obvious, the bike is a step-through design, which makes a bike easier to mount. This is vital if age-related mobility issues begin to creep in.
The gearing is also generously low, pairing a 10-40t Sunrace cassette with a spin-tastic 26t chainring. This chainring is mounted to Islabikes’ own crankset, which is claimed to have a lower-than-average Q-factor. This can improve pedalling performance and comfort for some riders.
Interestingly, the profile of the rims is specially formed to ease tyre fitting and removal. This means the rims are not tubeless compatible but will make life a lot easier should you get a trailside puncture.
Reducing weight was also a priority with the bike, and our size medium model comes in at a respectable 10.28kg. With this in mind, given the bike is designed for those that are less likely to get their thrills from sending mad huckz, it should come as no surprise that the bike forgoes a suspension fork in favour of a lighter carbon fork. This bristles with mounts for Anything-style cages or mudguards.
The whole package feels very well refined and as a general do-it-all bike — for riders of all ages, really — the Jimi appears to be a compelling choice. Stay tuned for a full review soon!
- £1,199, international pricing TBC
- Buy the Jimi direct from Islabikes
Schmolke TLO saddle
This ludicrously light (64g!) saddle from Schmolke — the German composite expert’s first saddle to wear the TLO (The Lightest Only) crown — is said to be the result of Stefan Schmolke’s experiments in his own “secret lab”.
Remarkably, this full carbon shell saddle is rated for both road and mountain biking.
While this is, at best, anecdotal, giving the remarkably tough feeling Schmolke TLO saddle a squeeze results in considerably less concern for our undercarriage compared to similar ultralight perches. The 8Nm maximum torque value on the rails is also reassuringly high.
While not the absolute lightest saddle on the market — that crown goes to Gelu’s 38g K3 saddle — it is a whopping €5 cheaper than that model. It also has a marginally more generous 100kg max rider weight compared to the Gelu’s 95kg.
This is obviously a very, very niche choice that is unlikely to appeal to the vast majority of cyclists but, for those who want an ultralight option that appears to be actually usable, it could be a compelling option.
- €495, international pricing N/A
- Buy Schmolke’s TLO saddle from Star Bike
Smith Wildcat sunglasses
Smith’s lairy, large and loud Wildcat goggle-like sunnies are a bold statement that is bound to delight the outgoing on-bike fashionista.
The extra-large coverage of the lenses extends way into the periphery, keeping the frames well out of sight. The replaceable nosepiece — which is coated with a tacky hydrophilic (i.e. it stays sticky when wet) rubber — is also adjustable for fine-tuning fit. The legs are coated with the same material.
The arms have a deeply satisfying indexed click when moving them into the open position. Swapping lenses is also very easy.
The lenses are also coated with a hydrophobic coating, which is said to keep things clear in moist conditions.
The glasses are available in three different frame colours and three different lenses, including a clear option. We have the stealthy Matte Moss frames, but the office favourite is by far the Refresher yellow-and-pink Matte Citron finish.
At £165 RRP ($199.00 / AU$299.95), the Wildcat’s come in at roughly the same price as, say, an Oakley Jawbreaker, though you do get the additional clear lens and a hardshell bag for that price.
- £165 / $199 / AU$299.95
- Buy Smith’s Wildcat sunglasses from Optimal Optic