Bargain shoes, a high-vis windproof, warm gloves and burly brakes
Bargain shoes, a high-vis windproof, warm gloves and burly brakes
What's in this week's First Look Friday?
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This week I sat down with our resident racers, Rob Weaver and Luke Marshall, to discuss to what extent racing has influenced the (vastly superior) mountain bikes we ride today.
It’s not quite Halloween yet, but Christmas decorations are already springing up in the shops, and with so many shiny new bikes and plenty of kit to test, it’s a bit like Christmas every week here in the BikeRadar office. So let’s see what’s arrived…
Triban RC 520 SPD road shoes
If you’re after an affordable and practical road shoe, these could be worth a look.Immediate Media
Decathlon is gaining a reputation for great value cycling kit and these road/gravel shoes look especially promising. The retail price is £69.99, but the blue version is currently available direct from Decathlon for just £44.99.
They are primarily designed for road use, but they’re built around mountain-bike style SPD cleats. This should broaden their appeal towards commuting and gravel riding because the smaller MTB cleat is far less awkward to walk on than road-specific cleats, such as the SPD SL.
The outsole has knurled rubber strips around the heel and toe sections to make walking easier still.
The sole is made from nylon with fibreglass and feels reasonably stiff, though of course it’s not as unyielding as a carbon sole. The leather upper doesn’t feel like it belongs on such an inexpensive shoe either, and the combination of laces and a ratchet strap should hold your feet in place well.
The laser-cut holes in the upper are probably not ideal for the weather in the UK right now though!
Our sample shoes weigh 790g for the pair in size EU42.
£69.99 / €75 / $50
Alé Iridescent Reflective Jacket
The iridescent finish reflects light back towards its source, whether that’s a car headlight or, in this case, a camera flash. Now you see it…Immediate Media
Now you don’t. In normal lighting conditions, the windproof has a subtle oil-slick effect.Immediate Media
This windproof cycling jacket has a trick up its sleeve. Thanks to tiny particles of glass embedded in the surface finish, it reflects light back towards its source. That means it should light up and stand out to drivers or other cyclists when illuminated by headlights, in much the same way as road signs and high-vis jackets.
This phenomenon is known as retroreflection. As the days get shorter, this feature could be a real safety benefit because the whole of the rider’s body stands out in headlights.
The oil-slick look (which is easier to see than to photograph) is produced as a result of different wavelengths (colours) of light reflecting from slightly different angles while all other wavelengths are canceled out.
This phenomenon is known as iridescence. Fun fact: if your brake rotors get really hot, you can see iridescence there too. The heat creates a thin layer of oxidised metal which reflects the light of specific wavelengths at given angles, creating a rainbow effect.
The windproofing comes from the tightly-woven 100 per cent polyester fabric. This is teamed with mesh strips running the length of the inner arms and side of the torso to allow sweat to escape. Alé suggests 10 to 18 degrees Celsius as the ideal temperature for the garment – presumably dependent on how you layer-up underneath.
It will be interesting to see how it performs on the road and whether the glass bead finish stands up to the washing machine.
£200 / €215 / $220
TRP G-Spec Trail SL brakes
TRP’s four-pot trail brakes are derived from the Aaron Gwin-designed downhill brake.Immediate Media
TRP was little-known in the world of high-end mountain bike brakes until it teamed up with multiple downhill world cup champion Aaron Gwin in 2016. Together they designed the G-Spec DH brake, which we reviewed here.
The Trail brake uses the same four-piston forged caliper but with a lighter ‘trail’ lever. There’s tool-free reach adjustment on the lever blade, but no bite-point adjust. That’s about what you’d expect for a £150 brake, which matches the adjustments offered by SRAM’s similarly-priced Code R.
The caliper houses pairs of 14mm and 16mm diameter pistons. The different piston diameters are said to offer increased modulation: as the larger pair move out to the rotor first, thereby giving a more gradual application of pressure onto the rotor.
Larger pistons are also used to counteract the issue that the leading part of the brake pad usually wears down fastest; larger pistons on the trailing edge mitigate this.
Unlike most brakes, which use phenolic pistons, TRP spec ceramic/alloy pistons in the caliper. It will be interesting to see if they cope any better in gritty, muddy and cold conditions, where phenolic pistons are prone to seizing. These will be fitted to a bike soon for review in a few months time.
The two-piece steel and alloy rotor is an attractive design.Immediate Media
We’ve also got TRP’s two-piece stainless steel/alloy rotor to test them with. The alloy carrier reduces weight compared to a fully stainless steel rotor.
The rotor weighs 206g in 180mm diameter. The brake with rear-length hose weighs 333g without hardware.
£150 / $180
Sealskinz Waterproof all-weather cycle gloves
These could be just the ticket to keep your hands toasty this autumn and winter.Immediate Media
Sealskinz has updated its popular all-weather cycle gloves with improved waterproofing, or so it claims at least.
The three-layer construction is built to be 100 per cent waterproof, while remaining warm. In order to maintain dexterity, the liner is designed so it won’t slip relative to the outer and mid layers, helping to maintain a natural feel when using fiddly controls.
They are somewhat reflective too, so should add a little visibility when riding after dark. Although they’re far less striking in low light conditions than the Alé Iridescent Jacket above.
We also like the large, adjustable wrist cuff, which should help stop unwanted drafts getting up your sleeves on cold rides.
Seb's been riding and racing mountain bikes for half his life. Since getting hooked on mountain bikes aged thirteen riding a tiny 24Seven Crosser, he's raced downhill, enduro and cross country, and while no athlete, still enters the occasional race. Seb studied experimental physics at university, and he's now happily using (wasting) his degree experimenting with different bike setups, trying to work out what works best and why. You'll often find him riding the same track ten times in a day, changing just one thing to pin down the differences. Seb's much happier back-to-back testing suspension on a wet Welsh hillside than riding the latest five-figure bikes on some sunny press trip - although he quite likes that too!