It’s been another busy week of reviews, news and advice here at BikeRadar with plenty of gear to keep you dry on the trails, training tips to improve your winter riding plus a mega mountain bike suspension fork test, too.
We also chatted to double Olympic gold medallist and 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas about his plans for the 2021 Tour de France, the hour record and returning to the Classics on the latest episode of the BikeRadar Podcast.
Other highlights this week included Devinci’s new Canadian-made trail bikes that are surprisingly affordable, a first ride review of Genesis’ Croix de Fer 10 Flat Bar and Specialized’s latest shoe launch, the Ares, which claims to deliver a 7-watt increase in power though the pedals.
Be sure to also check out our strength training exercises for cyclists from the experts, to help prevent injury and get you stronger on the bike this winter.
Fox 32 AX Performance gravel fork 2021
Suspension on gravel bikes is still a relatively niche concept. It’s led some to question where to draw the line between gravel and mountain bikes. However, the drop handlebars, short wheelbases and comparatively skinny tyres found on gravel bikes are likely to leave you in little doubt if you try to push one too far off road.
Fox was one of the first suspension brands to join the Groad-bike party, which is now growing with Suntour debuting its gravel suspension fork last summer. The AX isn’t especially new, but they’ve been hard to get hold of, and this is the first example we’ve had for long-term testing. It’s basically a shortened-version of Fox’s 32 mountain bike fork.
The AX offers 40mm of travel, which should be enough to save your wrists and provide a little extra traction on loose surfaces, and it’s air-sprung so can easily be adjusted to suit different rider weights and preferences.
The FIT4 damper offers adjustable compression and rebound damping, and can be locked-out to firm it up for sprinting efficiency.
Our example weighs 1,439g with an uncut steerer, including axle, so expect to add the best part of a kilogram over a carbon rigid fork.
It’s worth noting the 15 x 100mm axle (most gravel bikes use 12 x 100mm) and the post-mount brake mount (most gravel bikes these days will come with flat-mount brakes).
The chassis is the same as a 650b Fox 32 fork, so will fit mountain bike tyres in the smaller wheel size. As for 700c wheels, Fox says it “easily fits 700 x 40c tyres”, though we think some will want to run bigger rubber than that if they’re taking the weight and cost penalty of a suspension fork.
We’ll let you know how big you can really go in a review soon.
- £899 / $829 / €1,089
- Available from Silverfish
Rudy Project Defender Graphene ImpactX Photochromic glasses
The standard Defender uses a lightweight Grilamid frame combined with the fast-acting and tough ImpactX photochromic lens. We’ve been impressed with performance, but the £210 price is hard to take.
However, if Rudy’s premium Defenders aren’t quite premium enough, it’s launched this new Graphene version (for more on this wonder material see this article).
Instead of the lightweight Grilamid frame, you get the even lighter and much tougher injection moulded Graphene frame.
They’re priced at £259, but we’d suggest shopping around because you can find them much cheaper than the RRP.
So what does the extra £49 get you? Well, a 1.1g reduction in weight, according to our scales, and a frame that’s noticeably stiffer and incredibly scratch-resistant and durable.
Also, the frames come straight from the moulding process with no finishing or paint applied. So you get a slate-grey marbled effect to the frame that’s unique, no other pair of Graphene Defenders will look quite the same.
- £259 / $293 / €239
- Available from Bikester
Details on the Nitro Shox are scarce, but this unconventional mountain bike shock is the brainchild of Kevin Hill and Joe Hunter from the UK and it works like an Oleo-strut – a type of suspension found on aeroplanes and tanks, which is the duo’s background.
Basically, it operates a bit like the damper in a conventional shock – as the shock is compressed, oil is displaced by a shaft through an orifice to provide a speed-dependent damping force.
Meanwhile, the displaced oil compresses a reservoir of high-pressure nitrogen, which acts as the spring for the shock. As it rebounds, the compressed nitrogen forces oil back through the damper, causing the shaft to extend.
This already happens in a conventional single-tube shock – take the spring off a coil shock, compress it by hand and the damper will extend due to the compressed gas behind the internal floating piston (IFP).
But in the Nitro Shox, there’s no separate coil (or air) spring, instead the nitrogen compressed by the damping oil provides all the spring force.
As a result, it’s not easy to adjust the nitrogen pressure, which dictates the spring rate. The shock is preset with nitrogen and has to be removed from the bike for this to be changed.
The version we have offers preload adjustment, which can be tweaked on the bike. As with preload on a coil spring, this only affects the amount of force required to get moving at the start of the travel, which has some affect on sag, but doesn’t affect the spring rate (stiffness) later in the travel.
There’s no way to adjust the damping though. But reading between the lines, it sounds like the damping force is dependent on where you are in the travel, as well as how fast you’re moving through it.
The advantages? The duo claim the shock needs no adjustment after initial setup and requires a softer spring rate (for better sensitivity) without bottoming out too easily.
- £250–600, depending on model
- You can follow Nitro Shox on Instagram (there’s no website yet)
Nukeproof Blackline Winter Gloves
At this time of year, our winter mountain bike gloves are in a constant cycle of washing machine, tumble dryer and, well, cycling. So it’s always nice to see a new option to rival current favourites, such as the 100% Brisker.
These are windproof and waterproof on the back of the hand and have a single layer on the palm to maintain good contact with the grips and the controls without too much bunching and bulk.
That means they might be too minimal for those of you who live in Siberia and commute 40km across frozen tundra, but here in the UK they should keep the chill at bay without sacrificing ride feel. That’s what we’re hoping anyway.
We like the meaty Velcro strap at the wrist, which should help hold the gloves securely onto the hand, and the touchscreen-compatible thumb to let our other halves know we’ll be late home again.
- £27 / €32