POC’s aero sunglasses, Rapha off-road trousers, tan-wall Michelin tyres and Shimano’s latest Dura-Ace disc brake rotors

Plus all the news and reviews from the last week

First Look Friday 2023 02 24

It’s time for another edition of First Look Friday, our weekly round-up of the latest swag to arrive at BikeRadar HQ, and a chance to revisit some content highlights from the week.

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This week has been absolutely jam-packed with delicious news, reviews, features and more. So before we get on to the new kit, let’s take a look at what you might have missed.

Liv, the sister brand of Giant, announced the EnviLiv Advanced – its version of the highly rated 2023 Giant Propel.

We were lucky enough to get a test bike in advance of the launch and our tester, Katherine Moore, found it “excels at speed yet is surprisingly smooth and comfortable”. A great option for women who race or simply like to ride fast, then.

Café du Cycliste took hike-a-bike to a whole new level with its hiking boots-inspired gravel shoes.

In men’s pro racing, meanwhile, the Uno-X Pro Cycling Team caused a stir at the Volta ao Algarve with a new, rather outlandish, time trial helmet.

Presumably made by team sponsor Sweet Protection, the helmet appears to draw inspiration from the POC Tempor, by using a flared shape designed to smooth the airflow over the rider’s shoulders.

For the more traditionally minded, there was also news in the form of two new road bike platforms from Pinarello.

Wednesday saw the launch of the F-Series road racing bike, which is essentially a baby Dogma F, and the X-Series endurance road bike.

BikeRadar’s senior technical editor, Ashley Quinlan, drew the short straw and flew out to sunny southern Spain to put the Pinarello F7 Ultegra Di2 through its paces for a first ride review.

Look out for his full review in the near future, once he’s had a chance to give it a more thorough test here on the less flattering roads of the UK.

In his own inimitable way, deputy editor Jack Luke dug deep into his mental archive of dream bikes to bring us the story of the Trek District Carbon – “an ultra-premium, all-carbon, dedicated singlespeed belt-drive bike”, which cost £2,800 back in 2009.

Lastly, our latest Bike of the Week was BMC’s Fourstroke, the Swiss brand’s latest cross-country mountain bike, which launched last October.

Now, though, let’s take a look at some of the exciting new kit to arrive at BikeRadar this week.

POC Propel sunglasses

POC ‘s new Propel sunglasses promise an aero benefit.
Kaden Gardener / Our Media

Do you ever lie awake in bed worrying about how aerodynamic your sunglasses are?

If so, your prayers have been answered, because POC has recently released its new CFD-optimised Propel sunglasses.

According to the Swedish brand, the Propel sunglasses are “the most aerodynamic cycling sunglasses” it has ever produced.

POC says the Propels work by using a wrap-around lens and small plastic fairings on the sides, to help guide the airflow more smoothly around your ears and shoulders.

POC designed the Propel sunglasses using CFD modelling.

In terms of gains, POC says it’s “low single figure” watt savings at 40kph, but the exact amount would vary depending on the rider and their position on the bike.

POC does note this claim is based solely on data collected from POC’s CFD modelling (Computational Fluid Dynamics software essentially works as a virtual wind tunnel), and hasn’t been confirmed using any other forms of aero testing, such as a wind tunnel or track testing.

The main aerodynamic features are said to the wrap-around lens design and small fairings on the edge of lenses.
Kaden Gardener / Our Media

However, POC did tell us its experience with developing other aero things, such as the infamous Tempor time trial helmet, shows CFD aero gains do translate into the real world.

At £230 / $250 / €249, the Propels are on the pricier end of the spectrum for sunglasses. However, they’re available in a range of colours and a spare, clear lens is included as standard.

  • £230 / $250 / €249

Rapha Explore Pants

Rapha’s new Explore pants are designed for gravel riding.
Kaden Gardener / Our Media

Even the best mountain bike pants of old looked like pyjamas or combat trousers.

This was a problem for those who didn’t want to look like an infant or a prepper when harvesting sweet, sweet loam.

The situation has improved enormously in recent years though.

Tapered cuts, a welcome lack of useless cargo pockets and neutral branding mean riding pants look just as good when you’re supping a flat white as riding flat-out.

We loved Rapha’s Trail Pants for these reasons, and now the brand has adapted the proven design to the world of gravel riding.

The trousers are made from abrasion-resistant fabric with a DWR coating.
Kaden Gardener / Our Media

Rapha’s new Explore Pants are made from a four-way stretch and abrasion-resistant fabric. This is coated in a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) layer.

Cinchable hems will keep cuffs away from oily chains and, admirably, they ship with iron-on colour-matched repair patches.

The grey and orange versions look a bit too much like ski salopettes for our liking but, luckily, they also come in black or grey.

Michelin Power Cup TLR Classic tyres

Is 2023 the year of the tan-wall tubeless tyre?
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

Although the Michelin Power Cup range launched in March 2022, we’ve only just managed to get our hands on a set of the most coveted item in the range – the ‘Classic’ tan-wall tubeless tyres.

Compared to the biscuity colour sidewalls seen on the Continental GP5000 S TR or the Schwalbe Pro One TLE, the Power Cup TLR has a much more traditional light tan hue.

Is this a tyre that marries a genuine cotton casing with tubeless technology, then?

The ‘Classic’ tan-wall look is painted on top of a biscuity brown casing.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

No, it isn’t – a closer look reveals a similar biscuity, vulcanised nylon casing with a layer of tan paint added to complete the look.

Tan wall truthers, such as my colleague Liam Cahill, then, will have to wait and see if the rumoured new Vittoria Corsa Pro can manage it.

The tan paint layer on the sidewalls of the Power Cup TLRs is thin enough to allow the threads of the casing to still show through subtly, though.

This fortunately avoids the tan-wall effect being overly smooth and inorganic (like a digital photograph with excessive noise reduction).

Michelin Power Cup TLR Classic tyres have performed well in independent rolling resistance tests.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

According to independent testing, these tyres are also impressively fast, potentially rivalling even the best road bike tyres for speed. Given this, I’m looking forward to getting some kilometres in on these as we move into spring.

Our set of 700 x 28c tyres weighs 283g per tyre.

  • £64.99 / €77.95

Shimano RT-CL900 disc brake rotors

Shimano’s RT-CL900 disc brake rotor is its new top-of-the-range road disc brake rotor.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

In my review of Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9200, I reserved some of the highest praise for the new RT-CL900 disc brake rotors.

Launched quietly post-Dura-Ace R9200, at the same time as 105 Di2 R7100, the RT-CL900 rotors add a little weight to the braking system, but more than make up for that by delivering quieter overall performance. Happily, it appears stock of these is starting to filter through to Shimano dealers.

The carrier arms have been beefed up to improve heat deformation.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

Though the physical changes are subtle versus the XTR RT-MT900 they replace, Shimano claims the RT-CL900 rotors use a “more robust” carrier and arm shape, which better resists heat deformation caused by prolonged, heavy braking.

As with previous-generation Dura-Ace brake rotors, Shimano also includes a black heat-dissipating paint on the internal cooling fins, just below the braking surface.

If you want to save a little money, the Ultegra-level RT-CL800 rotors use what appears to be an otherwise identical design but do without this special paint.

These Dura-Ace level rotors get special black paint on the cooling fins to improve heat dissipation.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

Our set of 160 and 140mm RT-CL900 rotors weighs 207g, 11g more than an equivalent MT-RT900 set.

This is purely subjective, but I think these new rotors look a little better too.

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  • £64.99 / €79.99