The days and weeks seem to melt into one like an unending loop at the moment, but at least it’s Friday and that means it’s almost time for a couple of days away from the coalface of content.
Before we sneak off to recharge our batteries, though, we’ve got the latest instalment of our weekly column showcasing some of the most exciting bike stuff to land with the BikeRadar team. That’s right, it’s time for another edition of First Look Friday.
But before we take a look at our recent arrivals, here’s a quick rundown of the past week’s highlights.
Our guide to road disc brakes was updated and republished, and despite their almost universal adoption at the pointy end of the sport, road disc brakes are still a hot topic among pros and recreational cyclists alike. As with anything new or different, there’s a lot to learn, but our guide hopefully contains everything you need to know.
Senior writer, Matthew Loveridge, published his review of the Van Rysel EDR CF Carbon Gravel bike. It impressed him in many ways, but also missed the mark in a few others. As usual, Matthew’s review is in-depth and very much worth reading whether you’re on the hunt for a gravel bike or not.
We also got the news that SRAM is releasing a new rear derailleur option for its flagship Red eTap AXS road and gravel groupset. Following the direction of travel of its cheaper sibling, Force eTap AXS, the new Red eTap AXS 36T Max derailleur allows the use of (as the name implies) cassettes with a 36-tooth biggest cog. This is an increase in capacity of three teeth versus the standard derailleur, which will be welcome news to anyone wanting even more gearing range.
Rotor Aldhu Carbon cranks
Though Rotor is best known for its use of machined aluminium, the Aldhu Carbon crank is the Spanish company’s first foray into carbon road cranks.
As usual for carbon bling, the claim is that these cranks are both stiffer and lighter than their aluminium counterparts. This 172.5mm set weighs in at 256.5g, which is 91.3g lighter than the claimed 347.8g for a set of the aluminium Aldhu cranks.
They’re also, in my opinion at least, significantly prettier too. The smooth, gloss finish and understated branding is very elegant.
A bigger selling point though, is the crank’s modularity. Like all Rotor cranks, they’re highly adaptable to different bottom brackets, chainring types and chainlines. With the recent release of Rotor’s INspider power meter, it’s also possible to add a power meter spider in at a later date, too.
The Aldhu carbon cranks are pricier than their aluminium counterparts, but that’s par for the course with posh carbon bike components, so I doubt anyone will be too surprised about that.
- £349 / €389
Albion winter kit
With winter still well and truly biting here in the UK, I was thrilled to receive some new winter kit from Albion.
Made in Italy from recycled fabrics, Albion’s Long Sleeve Jersey features a new, four-way stretch, brushed fabric for a close, racy fit. It doesn’t feature any windproofing and is instead designed to maximise breathability, so it can be paired with a winter weight baselayer and a wind- or waterproof jacket or gilet.
The design is typically minimalistic, and the bright orange should help with visibility on gloomy days.
The Winter Tights are also made in Italy from recycled fabrics, and combine a mid-weight thermal material in the waist and thigh area, with a lighter weight, fleece-backed fabric for the knee and legs. The aim is to provide warmth without restricting mobility.
The chamois pad is the same Elastic Interface pad as found in Albion’s ABR1 bib shorts, and there are reflective strips on the rear of both the calves and thighs.
With the cold weather looking set to drag on for a while longer, I can’t wait to try this kit out.
- Albion Long Sleeve Jersey: £110
- Albion Winter Tights: £145
CeramicSpeed UFO drip lube
The latest update to CeramicSpeed’s premium chain lube, this wax-based drip lube is (boldly) said to be the “worlds fastest chain coating”, and has now come down in price to £35.99/ €40 per 180ml bottle.
Yes, that’s still relatively expensive for chain lube, but good chain lubes can actually save you money in the long-run through reduced drivetrain wear (reduced friction means less wear and tear on your precious parts), so it may potentially save you money in the long term.
Essentially a suspension of wax particles and other secret friction modifiers in a water-based carrier fluid, CeramicSpeed’s UFO drip lube is designed to be applied to a clean and dry chain, free of all oil and dirt. The idea is that the carrier fluid will then evaporate, leaving behind a layer of dry, slippery wax.
The theoretical upside of this is that you’re left with a dry yet well-lubricated chain that is resistant to contamination, and this keeps friction levels low.
The downside is that CeramicSpeed recommends you let the chain dry for eight hours before riding. This is something best applied the night before or just after you’ve got back from a ride (preferably after you’ve cleaned your bike).
Can the UFO drip lube provide a level of lubrication and cleanliness to rival an immersive waxed chain? I’m very much looking forward to finding out.
- £35.99 / €40
Gen!us craft lager
When I’m in the middle of a training block I do try (a bit) to watch what I eat and drink, but in the immortal words of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Brett Kavanaugh, “I still like beer” and don’t want to go completely teetotal even if it might help add a couple of percent to my FTP.
I’ve never really been a fan of alcohol-free beer though (mainly for taste reasons), but Gen!us looks to be the best of both worlds. Said to be the UK’s first light craft lager, Gen!us is a beer that promises to make “healthier drinking a pleasure, not a compromise”.
An ABV (alcohol by volume) of 3 per cent means it contains just one unit of alcohol per 330ml can, and at just 79 calories per can it also shouldn’t prove too disruptive to any nutritional plans you may or may not have at this time of year.
While I’m admittedly no cicerone, I’m no stranger to a craft lager and confirm that this one definitely passes the taste test. The best thing I can probably say about it is that I don’t think I would be able to tell this was a light or low alcohol beer if I didn’t already know, it just tastes like a really good beer.
Gen!us craft lager is Vegan Society accredited, and is also currently associated with the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation – a charitable foundation started by Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir, committed to helping improve the lives of those affected by Motor Neuron Disease (an issue sadly close to my heart).
Priced at £23.99 for a box of twelve cans, five pence from every can of Gen!us craft lager sold is donated to Doddie’s foundation. If ever there was a good reason to drink more beer, this is surely it.
- £23.99 for a box of twelve cans
Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case road tyres
At this time of year especially, I find it best to put your lightweight racing tyres away and bring out something specifically designed to put up with the extra debris that wet winter road conditions bring.
Bontrager’s AW3 Hard-Case is one of those rugged tyres, and this updated model promises a rubber compound formulated for high mileage and traction, and “best-in-class” protection against punctures.
According to Bontrager, that claim is backed up by testing at Wheel Energy, an independent industry expert on bicycle tyre performance.
Bontrager also claims rolling resistance is kept low, but that’s not really something I’d be too concerned about with a tyre like this.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that increased puncture protection and durability almost certainly comes at the expense of speed, compared to something much racier like the Continental GP5000.
It’s a trade off worth making during the winter though, because standing by the side of the road fixing punctures with frozen fingers is no fun.
Available in 700 x 25c, 700 x 28c, 700 x 32c and 700 x 38c, there’s a size for practically any road bike. My advice would be to pick the largest size you can fit in your frame and keep the pressures low for improved comfort.