DT Swiss 350 hubs, Specialized x Fjällräven bikepacking collection, warm-weather Velobici clothing and titanium bolts
Plus all the latest news and reviews from the week
Welcome back to First Look Friday, your round-up of the week’s content highlights and the latest swag to land at BikeRadar HQ.
Our Bike of the Year reviews have been trickling steadily onto the site throughout the week. Senior technical editor Ashley Quinlan crowned the ENVE Melee as the Performance Bike of the Year, finding it paired a balanced geometry with outstanding handling and comfort.
The Giant Propel Advanced Pro 0 AXS took our Aero Bike of the Year award. Senior technical writer Simon von Bromley concluded it offers performance comparable to the loftily priced Propel Advanced SL 0 he tested last summer at a more competitive price.
In other news, Wheels Manufacturing launched a derailleur hanger that combines SRAM UDH and Shimano’s direct-mount standard. This means compatibility with Shimano’s gravel and road bike groupsets, as well as its 11-speed mountain bike drivetrains. Backwards-compatibility is always a plus, so kudos to the brand for creating this.
We also brought you the first of our two-part spring edition of Torque About Tools. Some snazzy Japanese ratchets and a reasonably priced shop-grade chain tool await your perusal.
Digital writer Jack Evans spoke with Pav Bryan, coach to Mark Beaumont and Jenny Graham among others, to get his sage counsel on how to improve your cycling endurance in limited time.
Now, let’s get onto what you’ve been waiting for and unveil some tasty tech trinkets.
DT Swiss 350 hubs
A popular choice with wheel builders, DT Swiss updated its venerable 350 hub at the start of this year, so it’s now lighter and easier to maintain.
Sitting below the more expensive 180 and 240 hubs, the 350s are available for both rim brakes and Center Lock disc brake rotors. You can opt for a ‘classic’ hub, designed around traditional J-bend spokes or a straight-pull variant.
The axle end caps can now be removed by hand, so you can easily change freehubs.
Like its spendier siblings, the 350 uses the brand’s Star Ratchet system, forgoing the use of pawls and instead employing two ratchets that simultaneously push together when pedalling, via a spring. The new 350 doubles the ratchet tooth count to 36 teeth, rather than 18, to offer faster engagement.
DT Swiss kindly sent me 24h variants of the ‘classic’ hub in its disc-brake variant and I dusted off my very rusty wheel-building skills to build them onto the brand’s RR421 rims.
- DT Swiss 350 front hub: from £79.99/$112.90/€84.90/AU$139
- DT Swiss 350 rear hub: from £204.99/$284.90/€214.90/AU$339
Specialized x Fjällräven The Great Nearby collection
Specialized and Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven have launched their third drop of products in The Great Nearby collection.
The range is focused on commuting and bikepacking, and is inspired by the idea you don’t have to travel far to have an adventure.
Specialized x Fjällräven S/F Sleep Poncho
Made from recycled materials, the Sleep Poncho is a lightweight quilt that doubles as an insulating poncho.
Stored neatly in a stuff sack, the Sleep Poncho is claimed to fit riders up to 200cm.
The brands suggest the quilt will keep you warm down to 8°C and that it will also work well in humid conditions. The material is claimed to be water-resistant and there’s enough room inside the bag to move around.
In fact, the brands even say two sleep ponchos can be combined to create a cosy two-person sleep system.
The poncho features a draft collar and a hand-warming kangaroo-style pocket at the front.
Given you would typically carry a sleeping bag and a down jacket on a bikepacking trip, I’ll be interested to see how this Sleep Poncho performs double duty, especially at half the weight.
The Sleep Poncho is available in Green or Navy Blue Shadow, the latter of which I have here.
Specialized x Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack
This rather nifty hip pack can convert into a backpack. In its hip pack form, the main compartment sports two internal sleeves, as well as external mesh side pockets to carry two water bottles. It’s also compatible with a hydration bladder.
To convert it into a backpack, simply unclip the bungee cord at the top of the hip pack and unpack the body of the backpack. Finally, unfold the straps.
I can see this being particularly useful for bikepacking, when you want a hip pack during the day but a backpack in the evening to transport food to camp.
The Expandable Hip Pack is available in Black, Green or this rather fetching Ochre colourway.
Specialized x Fjällräven S/F Handlebar Pocket
This small burrito-sized handlebar bag looks like a neat solution for storing essentials with its 1.5-litre capacity. There aren’t any dividers inside, given the small volume, but there is a key clip.
The bag is made from 210D recycled Nylon Rip Stop with a 10.000mm PU coating. It fastens to your handlebar with two Velcro straps and a bungee cord that wraps around the stem. The bag is available in Ochre, Ox Red, black (pictured here) or green.
- Specialized x Fjällräven S/F Sleep Poncho: £215
- Specialized x Fjällräven S/F Expandable Hip Pack: £105
- Specialized x Fjällräven S/F Handlebar Pocket: £50
Velobici Jasper collection
Velobici has launched its new Jasper road clothing collection, designed for comfort when cycling in hot weather.
The Jasper jersey is constructed from a specialist performance yarn that’s claimed to cool your body as you heat up. This is complemented by a hexagonal jacquard fabric, also said to enhance airflow.
The jersey features a revised pocket arrangement to allow more space for your riding essentials, as well as easier access. There are four pockets at the rear, with the two pockets nearest the front snaking round to the side, as well as a fifth zipped valuables pocket.
The matching Jasper baselayer is also made from a super-soft jacquard fabric woven with a cooling yarn to encourage airflow.
Both the jersey and baselayers are available in three colours – Gold Flame, Biscotti and Olivine. I’ve opted for the Olivine jersey and Biscotti baselayer.
The Jasper bib shorts round out the collection. The shorts are built with a lightweight four-way stretch fabric for gentle compression to help alleviate fatigue and mesh ventilation panels at the back to keep you well-ventilated.
I’m looking forward to putting this kit to the test on some longer escapades and perhaps some audax riding over the summer.
- Velobici Jasper jersey: £205/$214/€255/AU$319
- Velobici Jasper Lightweight bib shorts: £195/$204/€244/AU$304
- Velobici Jasper baselayer: £50/$52/€60/AU$78
You may recall my ceremonial joy when Shimano quietly updated the bleed port screws on its new 105 Di2 shifters.
The bleed port screw used on its previous road and gravel bike shifters are frighteningly fragile and about as strong as soft cheese, potentially turning a routine brake bleed into a brain-frying nightmare.
Although Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100 levers also use a new screw, it’s made of the same cheesy metal as their previous generations – I highly recommend upgrading to the 105 one. The part number is Y0RM98020.
If, however, like me, you are running an 11-speed Shimano groupset, this new bolt isn’t cross-compatible and I expressed my sadness at being stuck with the old screw.
A number of Instagram comments sung the praises of Better Bolts, an American company that specialises in titanium bolts. The company sent me a selection of compatible titanium bleed port screws.
You can get them in Rainbow Oil Slick, gold, black or silver, and they retail for £8 a set. They don’t include an O-ring, so you’ll need to reuse the one on your old screw.
Better Bolts also makes a mountain bike equivalent for XTR, XT, SLX, Deore and Saint brakes.
Although I have never mangled one, it’s no secret that Shimano’s brake pad retaining pin is also rather fragile. Better Bolts also makes replacements for those in the same four colourways.
- Better Bolts Bleed Port Bolt Set: £8/$9.50/€8.95/AU$15
- Better Bolts Brake Pad Retaining Axle: £7/$7.50/€7.95/AU$12