Good tidings, BikeRadar readers, and welcome to the first festive edition of First Look Friday for December 2020. Only two more First Look Fridays until Christmas!
This year’s extended calendar of bike launches has shown little sign of slowing as we head from autumn into winter (in the northern hemisphere, at least), with the new Canyon Spectral arriving this week.
What else is new? Marin has gone big with its first full-suspension ebike, with an all-alloy construction, Shimano EP8 motor and aggressive geometry. Our technical editor, Alex Evans, has swung a leg over the Californian brand’s eMTB and was suitably impressed – read his Alpine Trail E review.
If skinny tyres are more your thing, our Bike of the Week is the Wilier Cento10 SL – and very nice it is too in go-fast red. Continuing the theme of fast Italian bikes, our review of the Wilier’s new Filante has also arrived. More than £9,000 of flyweight, aero loveliness.
The most outrageous bike to feature on BikeRadar this week, however, might well be the £999 / $999 carbon Specialized Hotwalk balance bike.
And before we get to this week’s First Look Friday picks, the change in season means it’s time to round-up the best winter cycling shoes – and don’t miss our essential guide to layering on the bike, to help you stay warm and dry through the months ahead.
Apple Watch 6
How do you record your ride data? On a bike computer? Your phone? Or with a smartwatch? The new Apple Watch 6 could be the most appealing Apple Watch yet for cyclists, having arrived with a range of fitness-focused improvements.
Let’s be clear; if you want in-depth ride and training data, conveniently displayed on a dedicated on-bike screen, then a GPS computer is likely to be the best option. However, a fitness tracker or smartwatch could bridge the gap between sport and lifestyle.
The latest updates to Apple’s wearable look to move it closer to the multi-sport smartwatches you see from the likes of Garmin, Polar, Fitbit and Wahoo with the new Elemnt Rival watch.
I’ve got this Apple Watch to see, quite frankly, if it’s any good for cyclists.
I won’t delve into the basic functionality of the Apple Watch here – there’s a hell of a lot it can do – but, as with previous versions, the latest edition offers activity tracking (through the ‘Workout’ app and daily movement, exercise and standing goals) and a huge range of third-party apps for cyclists, including Strava, Zwift, Komoot and Training Peaks.
Notably, you can now sync workouts directly to the likes of Strava, thanks to a software upgrade made available to Apple Watch users earlier this year. The Series 6 watch also continues to offer GPS/GNSS tracking, swim-proof water resistance, optical heart rate monitoring and an ECG app. There is still no native power meter support, though.
So far, so familiar; but what’s new? It’s a mix of hardware and software upgrades, the latter coming via the watchOS 7 operating system (available as an update to Apple Watch Series 3 and higher):
- Blood oxygen sensor – measure the oxygen saturation of your blood, though we’ve got some doubts as to how useful this information will be to most users
- Processor, display and battery improvements – the new Apple Watch is said to be 20 per cent faster than the Apple Watch 5
- Real-time, always-on altimeter – track your elevation, indoors and outdoors, using a combination of the watch’s barometric pressure sensor, GPS and nearby WiFi networks
- Sleep tracking – set sleep goals and track sleep trends
- VO2 max tracking – use heart rate data to predict VO2 max, which in turn can be tracked with the Health app on your iPhone
- Apple Fitness+ (launching late 2020) – a subscription service that offers studio-style, instructor-led workouts for ten sports, including indoor cycling
- Apple Maps for cyclists – cycling-specific, turn-by-turn directions (only available in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay, Shanghai, Beijing and London at present)
How useful are these features to cyclists? I’m getting to grips with the Apple Watch 6 and will let you know.
- Apple Watch Series 6 starts at £379 / $366
Rapha Explore Long Sleeve Pullover
The growing popularity of gravel riding means, inevitably, the rise of gravel-specific, well, everything. There are gravel bikes, of course, but also gravel shoes, gravel groupsets, gravel clothing, and so on.
This pullover is the latest addition to Rapha’s Explore collection, which also includes a technical T-shirt, hoodie, Gore-Tex jacket and sunglasses.
You don’t need gravel-specific anything to ride on gravel roads (or wherever you choose to ride your bike) but that’s not to say some of the features aren’t well considered for the type of riding you may encounter.
The Explore Long Sleeve Pullover is designed to be worn as an outer layer in cool-to-mild conditions or under a jacket in cold weather. It’s made from a gridded fleece fabric said to combine insulation and breathability, with windproof panels on the shoulders and arms to provide a little more protection.
The fit is relaxed for freedom of movement ”when navigating technical sections of trail”, according to Rapha, but also because gravel clothing seems to straddle a laissez-faire hinterland between skin-tight road bike kit and baggy mountain bike clothing. Other touches include an essentials pocket on the sleeve.
The pullover is available for men in green or dark navy, and for women in purple or dark navy.
- £120 / $165 / AU$210 / €145
- Buy now from Rapha
Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Lightweight Glove with Fusion Control
Truly waterproof cycling gloves are something of a unicorn product. Anyone who’s ended a ride wearing ‘waterproof’ gloves with sopping wet, freezing cold hands on a winter ride will attest to that.
Sealskinz’ new Fusion Control technology forgoes the traditional three-layer construction of waterproof cycling kit by bonding the liner, membrane and outer shell to create a “100% waterproof fabric with unmatched breathability.”
The patented design places an open mesh bond between the membrane and outer shell above, and the membrane and Coolmax liner below.
The bonding process improves moisture transfer while keeping the three layers secured as one, according to Sealskinz, so there should be no slippage or bunching of the liner.
The Fusion Control range is made up of four gloves for cycling.
The Lightweight Glove we’ve got here (£55 / $75 / €95) is the lightest, as you might well expect, but there’s also an All Weather Glove (£65 / $80 / €110) with a Merino wool inner and softshell outer, and Cold Weather Glove (£75 / $95 / €125) with the same wool inner and a combination of goatskin and softshell on the outer.
- £55 / $75 / €95
Lezyne Digital Check Drive
Tyre pressure can have a big impact on the way your bike rides. Investing in a track pump will get your tyres inflated in double-quick time but if you want to fine-tune your pressure, a pressure gauge is a sound investment.
A quality pressure gauge will provide accurate, repeatable results (we’ve got a round-up of the best pressure gauges we’ve tested). Crucially, it will enable you to check and tweak your tyre pressure on the go, so you can hone-in on the perfect setup.
Finding the right pressure for your riding style, tyre and wheel choice, and the conditions is often a case of trial and error. As a starting point, however, read our guide to mountain bike tyre pressure.
The Digital Check Drive from Lezyne has been around for a couple of years now but it’s one of the more interesting-looking pressure gauges out there. It’s slimmer and longer than most, and should comfortably fit in a jersey pocket, riding pack or hip pack.
The digital display rounds PSI to the nearest whole number and bar is to the nearest tenth, while the machined aluminium head can be flipped for compatibility with either Presta or Schrader valves.
- £45 / $49.99