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Luxurious natural Lyocell bar tape from Grepp, a solid tool-free rack and an oh-so-expensive saddle from Specialized

Welcome to First Look Friday, your weekly round-up of the best kit to land at BikeRadar HQ

What a week it’s been for new bike tech!

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We kicked things off on Monday with the release of Continental’s new GP5000 S TR tyre, which is claimed to be 20 per cent faster and a not-insignificant 50g lighter than the already formidable GP5000.

The tyre was absolutely everywhere at both the men’s and women’s editions of Paris-Roubaix, though that wasn’t quite enough to light up the tech tummy of our resident nerd, Simon von Bromley, who argued that tech at the Hell of the North has become boring in recent years.

On Tuesday, we saw the release of Santa Cruz’s updated Chameleon hardtail and RockShox’s Flight Attendant wireless suspension control system. The former is a pretty extraordinary bit of kit and is absolutely worth reading about, even if you’re not a mountain biker.

We then rounded out Thursday with two key bike launches, starting with the Trek Top Fuel – which is now a dedicated downcountry slayer – and the all-new Specialized Crux, which is claimed to be the world’s lightest gravel bike.

If that isn’t quite enough for you, sit back and take a deep dive into the best new kit to land at BikeRadar HQ in this week’s edition of First Look Friday. woven Lyocell handlebar tape Lyocell handlebar tape
Could this be the solution to my bar tape woes?
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Grepp is an interesting new handlebar tape made from Tencel, which is a natural cellulose fibre derived from trees.

In the hand, it feels like a super-soft cotton canvas and is very pliable.

The outside face of the tape is woven to include a textured surface that provides some additional grip. Lyocell handlebar tape
The tape has rubber threads woven into it to stop the tape from slipping.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Instead of using an adhesive strip, the back of the tape is woven with 20 natural rubber threads distributed across its full width to stop it slipping.

The lack of an adhesive means it should be possible to unwrap the tape and fit it to another set of bars. This is particularly useful if you’re keen to experiment with narrower (or wider!) handlebars. Lyocell handlebar tape
The tape is very soft to the touch.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Should the time come to dispose of the tape, it’s made from fully natural materials, so it should eventually break down in a commercial decomposer.

The tape has no stretch whatsoever, which should make it possible to get a super-tight wrap.

Though Grepp doesn’t specifically suggest this, I’ve found soaking cotton handlebar tape prior to wrapping it gives it a bit more elasticity and helps iron out any wrinkles. I suspect a similar trick could be employed here.

The tape also includes a neat reusable expanding bar end plug that wedges into the handlebar when the central section is pressed in.

At 270 SEK (approximately €26 / £22), the tape isn’t even that expensive. Given it’s almost infinitely reusable, it also strikes me as great value for money when compared to other premium bar tapes.

I’ve been experimenting with cotton bar tape for the last few months and my findings have been mixed.

It’s hard-wearing, feels great in hot or sweaty conditions and looks cool, but oh my goodness – it’s so unbelievably uncomfortable. The tape offers literally zero padding and, on long rides, that can get pretty darn unpleasant.

Though it’s never going to be as comfortable as a proper gel-backed tape, I reckon Grepp could be just what I’m after and I can’t wait to fit it to one of my bikes.

Jack front rack

Jack front rack
The rack performs so much better than I was anticipating.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

The Jack is an all-new tool-free front rack from WholeGrain Cycles that will fit almost any bike with 31.8mm or 25.4mm handlebars.

To fit the rack, you slide the two plastic clips on the top of the rack onto your bars on their clamping area.

Next, you take one of the included webbing straps and thread this onto one of the hooks on the back of the rack.

This then passes under your stem before connecting it to the hook on the other side of the rack. This stops the rack from rotating further forward.

Finally, you attach an adjustable webbing strap around the steerer tube or head tube to stop the rack from rotating upward.

Once everything is cinched up, the rack feels really solid – much more so than I anticipated.

Jack front rack instructions
WholeGrain does a great job of showing how the rack fits in this GIF.
Wholegrain Cycles

The rack is deep enough to easily accommodate a basket or chunky bikepacking bags.

The rack itself is made from solid 304 stainless steel and features a replaceable fabric base to stop your luggage from poking through and touching the tyre. The rack and fabric base weigh 677g without the additional straps.

The Jack ships with a neat matching hookless bungee cord and two carabiners to help you secure whatever load you decide to carry.

Jack the rack
It has my name on it, so I simply had to try it out.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

On that note, the rack is rated to carry up to 5kg. While that may not sound like much, you’re unlikely to exceed this, as carrying much more will likely ruin the handling of your bike long before the rack fails.

The idea for the rack isn’t particularly new – the Nitto F16 has been around for donkey’s years, but this is a much more refined and solid product overall.

The Jack is available on Kickstarter now – where, as of writing, it has already exceeded its funding goal 23 times over – for £58 / €65 / $70. The RRP will be £60 / €70 / $80 once the rack goes into full production in July 2022.

Earlybird racks are due to ship in January 2022, with all other orders fulfilled in April 2022. Unusually for a Kickstarter product, the rack also features a two-year warranty, though the exact details of this are yet to be ironed out.

Specialized S-Works Romin with Mirror saddle

2021 new Specialized Crux gravel bike on BikeRadar
Oh so expensive and oh so good. I’m almost annoyed by how much I like this saddle.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

The Specialized S-Works Romin with Mirror is the latest saddle from the big S to use a 3D-printed lattice construction to help reduce pressure and improve comfort.

The brand introduced its Mirror technology with the Power saddle, which is its most popular saddle overall.

The Romin Evo has a more traditional shape that’s better suited to riders who like to shift their weight around while climbing.

Specialized S-Works Romin with Mirror saddle
The saddle is pleasingly squishy in a totally unobtrusive way.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

I was sceptical as to how good this tech could be when it first launched – many of the claims made around the improvements to comfort just sounded a bit over-egged.

However, as I commented in my first ride review of the new Specialized S-Works Crux, the saddle is almost frustratingly good – £390 / $450 is an obscene amount of money to spend on a saddle, but its performance almost makes up for it.

I really think there’s a bright future for 3D printing in cycling and I hope the prices of products such as this creep down in the years to come.

  • £390 / $450

Tange Seiki Falcon FL250C threaded headset

Tange Falcon headset
A lovely headset for not a lot of cash, you couldn’t ask for much better!
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Much like the Deda Piega handlebars I featured on First Look Friday earlier this year, today’s final inclusion is something of a public service announcement: if you’re looking for an affordable threaded headset that uses cartridge bearings, just buy a Tange Falcon.

A few weeks ago, my very old Chris King 2Nut headset cracked right through its lower cup (I discovered this when it started making the most horrifying creaking noise I have ever heard on a bike).

Lovely as they are, I was unwilling to shell out £160 for a new Chris King headset and, having been impressed by the same headset on my tandem, I decided to go for a Falcon again.

Tange Falcon headset
The black finish looks excellent.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Available in either a silver or black finish, and in 1in or 1 ⅛in options, the Tange Falcon can usually be found online for around £20.

The anodising on the black headset has a really rich lustre that belies its low price.

I’ve also found the bearings to be very hard-wearing and, provided you use a high-quality tool, the spanner flats on the headset cups don’t mark as easily as some headsets I’ve used.

Finally, I think we can all agree that the headset matches beautifully with the 3T stem fitted to the bike, and that’s what matters most. Lovely stuff.

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  • £30, international pricing TBC