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Clicky ratchet tools, shiny track hubs, flat-out rubber and a hybrid baselayer

Plus our pick of the week's best news and views

First Look Friday.

If you didn’t see my byline on many articles last week, it’s because I was away enjoying sunny weather and riding my bike without a care in the world. But, by heck, what a whirlwind of news and views I returned to from some well-earned R&R!


It’s taken me all day to read up on the latest happenings in the world of cycling, so before I show you this week’s swag, here’s a selection of articles I’d missed, and needed to catch up on…

If curly bars are your thing, then take a peek at the new Wilier Cento10 SL – a more affordable version of its simply stunning aero Cento10 Pro.

The new Canyon Ultimate CFR is at the other end of the scale, and marks the marque’s entry in to the ‘hey look, these are the super, super high-end special versions of our bikes’ style of bike (similar to S-Works, Project One or Hi-Mod bikes from other big players). We also saw a CFR version of the Sender DH bike this week.

We were blown away by a titanium bike that could easily pass as carbon and, finally, if you like riding your curly-barred bike indoors, you might be interested in the new Wahoo Kickr smart trainer.

For fans of flatter handlebars and knobblier tyres, have a peek at Yeti’s 2021 range round-up, or perhaps Giant’s new Trance X 29 – a mid-travel aggressive trail bike from the Taiwanese brand.

Want more news from Giant? How’s about its Talon range that starts at a pocket-friendly £399. Another huge brand, Merida, this week showcased its new Big.Trail and Big.Nine hardtails too.

And now, before we crack on with the product, have you caught our latest podcasts? From interviews with F1-turned bike designers and Tour de France’s Ned Boulting t0 Tech Q&As and why XC is the hottest form of mountain biking around, we’ve plenty of pods to catch up on and subscribe to for future episodes.

Facom Bit Set 1/4in 31 Piece R180

Facom Bit Set 1/4
This Facom tool kit is a joy to use.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

You might have seen a number of fancy tools appearing in First Look Friday over the past few years, largely thanks to Jack Luke’s affinity for using the right tool for the job, especially if it’s niche and/or very, very shiny.

Facom isn’t exactly the smallest brand around, but it makes some lovely tools, including this 31-piece socket set, which while not bicycle-specific, has plenty of bits that will work nicely on your bike.

Facom Bit Set 1/4
Supposedly a joy to fiddle with.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

The unit has a flexible head to help get into all those nooks and crannies that a straight tool can often struggle to fit into neatly. The ratchet head itself has plenty of points of engagement for fine-tuning adjustment, and Jack assures me that it has a reassuringly taught feel.

The tool is ‘really nice in the hand’, apparently, with a very premium finish – no wonder Jack’s a fan already.

Included in your 31 pieces are 28 bits, with hex heads from 1.5mm to 8mm, Torx heads from T10 to T40 and various other Pozidrive and Phillips heads, as well as a 100mm extension piece – ideal for getting in to those pesky bottle cages and seatpost heads.

  • £120

Specialized XC tyre range

Specialized's XC tyre range
From the Renegade to the Ground Control via the Fast Trak, this is Specialized’s XC tyre line-up.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

You might have noticed a lot of cross-country content on BikeRadar in recent months, and it’s not just because we secretly all love wearing Lycra, it’s because XC is so damn hot right now!

When it comes to tyres, sadly, with low weight comes a little more fragility, so it was very timely that a box of Specialized’s latest XC-focused rubber dropped through the letter box this week because I’ve just put a massive hole in some of my fast-rolling treads.

Its range comprises three tyre treads and ‘standard’ or S-Works versions. The S-Works tyres are lighter, while the standard tyres come with an ever so slightly burlier tread to reduce the risk of cuts and damage.

Specialized Renegade tyre

Specialized Renegade tyre
The Renegade is the fly-weight, super-fast dry weather race tyre from Spesh.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The Renegade is the super-fast rolling tyre for dry and hardpack conditions. With a low knob profile that’s designed to reduce rolling resistance while still offering cornering and braking bite, this is its tyre for those flat-out fast days when the ground is baked as hard as rocks and you want snappy acceleration.

Specialized Fast Trak tyre

Specialized Fast Trak tyre
The Fast Trak is the do-it-all XC race tyre from the Big S.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The Fast Trak is the tyre that comes on the latest Epic race bike and has a chevroned tread pattern that’s designed as a slightly more all-round, intermediate XC race tyre. The blocks are built to reduce rolling resistance, while still offering great cornering and braking traction over a range of surfaces, and Specialized says that they’ve been optimised to adapt to slippery surfaces too.

Specialized Ground Control tyre

Specialized Ground Control tyre
The Ground Control is a fast-rolling XC/trail tyre.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

You might see the Ground Control on some of Specialized’s lighter weight trail bikes as well as the odd XC bike. The tread is more aggressive for better purchase in soft and loose conditions. The knobs have been engineered to have greater strength, optimised for braking and additional traction, while the use of Gripton compounds means performance in most trail conditions.

  • Standard casings: £40
  • S-Works casings: £45

Pas Normal Studios Control Mid SL Base Layer

Pas Normal Studios baselayer
Baselayers should be an integral part of your riding wardrobe.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

Getting your layering right is crucial for ensuring comfort on the bike. Whether it’s summer or winter, a baselayer is a stellar option to ensure you either don’t cook or don’t freeze (yes, baselayers can help you keep cool!).

A vest style baselayer is among the most versatile in my experience, being both useful in summer (when you want to keep your tan-lines sharp) and winter (when a bit of extra torso warmth is no bad thing).

Pas Normal Studios Control Mid SL
The Control Mid SL has a vest design, but there’s a long-sleeve version available too.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

This vest from Pas Normal Studios eschews sleeves and uses a Polartech Power Wool fabric to keep your body temperature right where it should be.

Polartec Power Wool is a hybrid fabric using a Merino wool inner and synthetic outer. This, it says, means smells are kept to a minimum, while breathability, moisture transfer and durability are maximised.

Polartec Power Wool fabric
The Power Wool fabric uses a Merino inner layer and synthetic outer layer.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

The top is designed to be unisex and Pas Normal Studios recommends women size down for an ideal fit.

All-City New Sheriff SL fixed gear hubs

All-City New Sheriff SL lightweight fixed gear hubs
All-City’s New Sheriff SL lightweight fixed gear hubs.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

All-City’s New Sheriff SL hubs are some of the lightest fixed gear hubs on the market, but unlike some super lightweight hubs, they don’t compromise on practicality.

The name and design is a direct nod to Campagnolo’s legendary Record C Sheriff Star hubs, much loved by the #nobrakes fixed gear crowd.

Available in a silver or black finish, 32h or 28h spoke options, and fixed/fixed or fixed/freewheel threadings, there should be something for even the pickiest of fixie-istas.

The pair is claimed to weigh 432g, with our sample coming in just under at 427g on the BikeRadar scales of truth.

All-City New Sheriff SL lightweight fixed gear hubs
The hub end caps flow really nicely into the large flanges of the hubs.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Compared to the regular All-City Sheriff hub, the axle, bolts and end-caps are significantly slimmed down, but the hubs still spin on a set of chunky 6902 bearings, so longevity shouldn’t be compromised compared to some ultralight hubs.

On that note, it’s worth stressing these are not the outright lightest fixed gear hubs on the market – that prize is generally considered to go to Mack’s ultralight hubs, which come in at a claimed 340g for an equivalent pair. These were at the heart of the wheelset used on Joe Norledge’s 2017 hill climb bike.

Nonetheless, 432g is a respectable figure for a pair of high-flange hubs and, let’s be real, they look cool, and that’s what riding a stupid fashionable fixie is all about at the end of the day.

These particular hubs are due to be built into a moderately more practical (a practical fixed gear wheelset is a bit of an oxymoron) hill climb bike for Jack, but which rims is yet to be decided. What would you opt for?