It’s the last Friday before Christmas and there’s just time to check out some interesting products from the BikeRadar office.
This week we gave our verdict on Specialized’s super-desirable S-Works Enduro and – at the opposite end of the cycling spectrum – Triban’s great value RC120 disc road bike.
Outwith the reviews, our recently renamed Mathew Loveridge asked whether carbon bikes have been around long enough to be finally considered “classic”; we ran through our top five climbing bikes; and offered up even more ideas on Christmas gifts for cyclists.
But, in this week’s First Look Friday we’ve got a £1,000 full-suspension mountain bike with the specs to match the best in this competitive category, a dropper seatpost for gravel bikes, comfortable clothes from Rapha and a rugged Garmin GPS fitness watch.
Carrera Titan X Men’s Full Suspension Mountain Bike
The sub-£1,000 mountain bike category is more competitive than ever. As I’ve argued before, mountain bikes at every price point are getting more capable, especially in the more affordable categories.
In the UK, Calibre has been the name to beat in the £1,000 full-suspension category with its enormously successful Bossnut.
But the Titan X looks, on paper, to be a worthy competitor. The new Bossnut is a little pricier than its predecessors at £1,100 (not an inconsiderable difference at this price point) and comes with a fixed seatpost, while this new rival from Halfords gets a dropper post and otherwise similar spec to the Calibre for £100 less.
The alloy frame is not the most refined looking out there, but it pumps out 130mm of suspension travel via a proven RockShox Monarch shock, as does the RockShox Recon air-sprung fork. Shimano’s MT200 hydraulic brakes with 180mm rotors should provide plenty of stopping power too.
The real highlight of the build is the SRAM SX 12-speed drivetrain, which offers plenty of gearing options and intuitive, reliable single-ring shifting, along with that Trans-X dropper post, with 120mm of travel to easily get the saddle out the way on steep descents.
There is a 10 x 135mm quick-release rear axle, which limits upgrade potential and (potentially) stiffness. The 740mm handlebar is a little narrow for our tastes too, but the overall package is very promising for the price.
Our bike in size large weighs 15.8kg, but, as always, the proof is in the pedalling. We’ll have a full review soon once we’ve had a chance to see how it performs on the trail and compared it to the Calibre Bossnut.
- Buy from Halfords
PRO Discover Dropper Seatpost, 70mm
With gravel bikes becoming ever more like mountain bikes – thanks to big knobby tyres, hydraulic disc brakes and even suspension – it seems only a matter of time before this growing segment takes another great idea from the MTB world… dropper posts.
While drop-bar purists will likely balk at the idea of a dropper on a gravel bike, the ability to tackle demanding terrain with more comfort, speed and safety is sure to appeal to the more adventurous gravel-grinders out there.
The Discover Dropper Seatpost, from Shimano’s component brand PRO, offers a modest 70mm of drop – just enough to provide the freedom to move over technical terrain. Unlike most mountain bike droppers, it’s available in the 27.2mm diameter only.
It’s only available with internal “stealth” cable-routing, so not all gravel bikes will be compatible. However, most of the more adventurous gravel bikes do have this option and in other cases it may be possible to route the cable through the front-derailleur cable ports if they’re left vacant by a single-ring drivetrain.
The remote and cable are included. The remote has a neat design, which clamps it to the drops just under the hood and can be actuated from the drops or the hoods with the thumb or index finger respectively.
The post, remote and full length cable weigh 525g all together, so expect roughly a 300g weight-penalty compared to a carbon fixed seatpost.
- Buy from Freewheel
Garmin Instinct GPS watch
A smartwatch can be a handy tool for keeping track of your location, distance and heart rate throughout the day. This can be used to estimate such things as how many calories you’ve burned and even how stressed you’ve been. A bike computer can monitor your heart rate too, and usually more accurately with the aid of a chest strap, but these aren’t exactly practical to wear all day long.
Garmin’s Instinct watch is designed to be properly tough, with “military” standards for shock-proofing and water-resistance of up to 100m. That’s surely overkill for anyone, unless your name is Herbert Nitsch, but at least it should handle wet rides and even triathlons without flinching.
The display is easy to read in sunlight and the band is designed to be breathable for sweaty sports. The battery is claimed to last for up to 14 days, or 16 hours when using GPS.
It uses GPS as well as Glonass and Galileo satellites for reliable geo-positioning, and there’s a compass and altimeter to help you navigate. Garmin’s Trackback routing feature can provide breadcrumb directions to get you back to where you started should you get lost.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the optical heart rate sensor, which can be used to view your heart rate throughout the day. It can also be used to measure heart rate variability, which can indicate stress levels. I’m not entirely sure what you would then do with that information; perhaps show it to your spouse/partner/colleague to helpfully quantify how much they’re stressing you the flip out?
More usefully, you can monitor your calorie use, receive text messages and reply to them when paired to an Android phone.
Oh, and it tells the time.
Rapha Pro Team Transfer Sweatpants and Hoodie
Looking to relax and recover after a hard day cycling/talking about cycling? Look no further than these super-comfortable sweatpants and hoodie from Rapha (who else).
Both have a baggy, relaxed fit and are made from an “engineered knit technology to create a waffled cotton fabric.” Apparently this keeps you cosy while remaining breathable and allowing excess heat to escape, thereby improving recovery.
It seems reasonable to me that wearing loose-fitting clothing and remaining warm without sweating would improve blood flow, thereby allowing muscles to recover faster. Although, whether you have to pay this much for the effect is harder to believe. Disclaimer: I am not a physiologist.
Unsurprisingly, they are very comfortable, but no doubt it’s the “big R” badge that will hold most appeal for target buyers.