Welcome to this week’s edition of First Look Friday, with an intriguing mix of smart tech, on-bike storage, music-inspired kit and cycling-inspired philosophy.
This week, we’ve had some pretty exciting – and interesting – stories up on BikeRadar.
Will Soffe headed to Dyfi Eco Park in Machynlleth to find out how Atherton Bikes makes its 3D-printed frames, uncovering space-age materials, cutting-edge production and a complex suspension system.
Our new tech writer, Oscar Huckle, had his first two stories published, covering a Garmin smartwatch said to have unlimited battery life given the right conditions, and the new Sonder Camino gravel frameset.
Elsewhere, Alex Evans delved into the world beneath our wheels, taking us through the five types of mud every mountain biker needs to know about, and Luke Marshall covered the new Focus JAM 8.
Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar
The Fenix 7 has many of the same functions as its predecessor, from activity modes for a large number of sports to heart-rate monitoring, WiFi connectivity and access to the Garmin Connect+ store.
The watch has a number of new features, including a touchscreen to complement its buttons, which makes the interface more intuitive to use.
Garmin has introduced a number of new training features. These include Visual Race Predictor, which assesses running history and overall fitness to estimate race times, and Up Ahead, which alerts you to places of interest and key points coming up on your route.
While the Fenix 6 wasn’t available with Garmin’s Power Sapphire scratch-resistant lens and solar charging, the Fenix 7, including this model, is available with both.
This model has a 47mm case, but there are also 42mm and 51mm versions of the watch.
Garmin says the “solar-harvesting capacity” of the Fenix 7 has also increased by over 200 per cent in smartwatch mode when compared to the solar Fenix 6, which should help increase the already lengthy amount of time you can go between charges.
Similar to Alex Evans when he reviewed the Fenix 6 Pro Solar, I’ve found using the Fenix 7 for bike rides more convenient than I expected because it offers 99 per cent of the functionality of a bike computer.
One of the advantages of using a smartwatch over a bike computer is it will double up as a fitness tracker and auxiliary phone interface. The watch records a mass of data, enabling you to track your sleep and overall “wellness”. You can use it to control what you’re listening to and receive push notifications, too.
- Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar: £779.99 / $899.99 / AU$1,399 / €899.99
- Other models: from £599.99 / $699.99 / / AU$1,049 / €699.99
Rapha Seeing Sound Pro Team Training Jersey
Rapha’s new Seeing Sound collection celebrates Morton’s alternative streak with a number of items the Aussie rider is said to favour when he’s out on his adventures.
One item in the collection is this Pro Team Training Jersey, which features a near-hallucinogenic pattern of black dots, hazy blues and patches of ochre.
Morton’s playlist brings together a mix of melancholic guitar music, pop, euphoric French house and rhythmic electro. There’s plenty of rap from the likes of Drake, Ye (formerly Kanye West) and A$AP Rocky, and more questionable inclusions such as Justin Bieber and Post Malone.
Whatever gets you through those miles, Lachlan.
- £85 / $115 / AU$150 / €100
Silca Mattone Grande seat pack
Silca released the Mattone seat pack in July 2020 and has now produced a larger version, the Mattone Grande.
This new saddle bag shares much in common with the smaller Mattone, retaining the cuboid shape (mattone means brick in Italian), along with the Boa ratchet closing system and Silca’s signature red and black colour scheme. It’s also made of the same waterproof material and closes with a YKK Aquaguard zip to keep any rain or road spray out.
The two packs differ on the inside, however. While the standard Mattone has a divider to protect inner tubes from any sharp edges, the Mattone Grande forgoes this and has a pocket on the lid’s inside face.
Of course, there is also quite a bit more room inside. The original Mattone had enough space for a tube, multi-tool, tyre lever and CO2 cartridge, but I’ve managed to fit all this plus an extra tube into the Mattone Grande.
- £51 / $55 / AU$79 / €49.95
The Art of Cycling by James Hibbard
The Art of Cycling by James Hibbard brings two parts of his life together, cycling and philosophy.
Hibbard raced in America from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, winning medals at the United States National Track Cycling Championships and earning a place in the country’s national track team.
Hibbard came to think the sport, plagued by doping, was rotten. So when he stopped racing, he embarked on a 10-year hiatus from cycling and instead turned to philosophy, which he studied at the University of California.
The Art of Cycling sees him return to cycling and apply his skills and knowledge as a philosopher to the sport and his own life, wrangling with questions around pain, depression, perfection and purpose.
It is at once a “meditative love letter” to cycling and a set of ruminations. Hibbard shows how cycling can inform – and occasionally provide sanctuary from – existential questions around selfhood and meaning, as well as how philosophy can go some way to describing the liberatory feeling of riding a bike.
- £14.99 / AU$39.99