March is now in full swing, which is no bad thing because the worst of the cold and wet weather is hopefully now behind us.
As you’ll see from the selection of goodies featured in this First Look Friday, we’re looking forward to warmer temperatures, so we can pack our bikes up with snacks and kit and head into the hills for a long day, or perhaps quite a few long days in a row…
But before that, did you catch what we got up to on BikeRadar this week?
There were a plethora of flat-pedal reviews for our mountain bikers, including the Hope F20, legendary DMR V12 and Nukeproof’s Neutron EVO. We also tested the Giro Latch flat-pedal shoes – perhaps the perfect accompaniment?
On another note, have you ever thought, ‘I know, carbon fibres in my sealant would be a great idea!’? No, us neither. But Silca did, and so the brand has released a tubeless sealant with carbon fibre infused into the mix. What a world we live in.
If you’re befuddled by electronic groupsets, we brought you a full-length guide to all of the key offerings from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. And, as a bonus, Jack Luke has been scratching his head and has come up with the five things he’d like to see from Shimano in 2022.
Continuing this theme, our BikeRadar Podcast for the week was one of our Tech Q&As, where our listeners send in their tech-based queries, and our senior technical editors Rob Weaver and Warren Rossiter wade in with their guidance.
Have a listen below, or via your favourite podcast provider.
Tailfin AeroPack Alloy
The world of bikepacking has exploded over the past few years, with dozens of brands offering various bags and pouches that can be strapped or tied to your bike, usually without the bulk of traditional pannier bags and racks.
One of the most common attachments when carrying loads on a bike is the saddlebag, where a couple of straps hold 10 to 15 litres of kit off the back of your saddle, in a nice and aero configuration.
The AeroPack takes this idea and adds a pair of alloy (or carbon if you want to spend more and carry less weight) legs that feature a quick-release attachment to an axle stub by your rear wheel.
By doing so, they’re claimed to add stability and carrying capacity, while still avoiding your bag stealing precious watts.
With articulation built into its structure, the AeroPack can be used on everything from aero road bikes through to full-suspension mountain bikes. The rubber strap at the front can be mounted below a dropper post‘s collar for use with an uppy-downy post should you wish.
The AeroPack has a 20-litre capacity, with a roll-top opening and a pair of compression straps. There’s a side pocket on one side and a zip on the other that goes straight through to the main luggage compartment for swift access.
The alloy legs have bottle cage bosses, if you want to strap some Anything Cages to them, or, as I have here, a pair of pannier mounts for the brand’s Mini Panniers (there’s an option for the AeroPack to come without these mounts too).
The Mini Panniers add five or 10 litres of additional waterproof capacity (£60/£80 per side respectively), while you can also purchase 22-litre Super Light or Durable panniers (£109 or £119).
- From £239
Rapha Bar Bag
At the other end of the luggage-carrying scale (both in terms of size and where on the bike it goes) is the Bar Bag from Rapha.
On the face of it, it’s a simple piece of equipment, but thought has clearly gone in to it.
The main 2l compartment has a couple of mesh pockets inside, and is lined in Rapha’s customary pink material to help make out small items in its depth. There’s a quick-access pocket on the front too.
It’s held on your bike by a pair of clipped straps, which have an extra-secure pull-through to fine tune the fit and ensure they don’t work loose during a ride.
At the side of the pack is an additional strap so you can mount it inside your frame’s front triangle, should you wish.
If you’re prone to a cheeky café stop mid-way through your ride, you can unclip the bag and sling it over your shoulder, thanks to the hidden strap – very fashionable!
The material is said to be weather-proof, as you’d expect from a bag that’s going to be mounted above your front wheel’s spray and right in the firing line of the rain.
The loops on the front are reflective too, so when you find yourself out after dark you’ll be a little more visible.
- £45 / $60 / €55
Therm-a-Rest Vesper 7C
I’m not as in tune with the outdoor/camping world as I once was, but I wonder whether the quilt is as controversial a topic as differing wheel sizes and discs on road bikes, or if gravel is just a fancy term for rubbish cross-country.
The theory here is, in my eyes, sound.
Instead of being cocooned inside a bag, the Vesper quilt rests over the top of you, providing warmth but also more freedom to move around while you sleep. With under-mat straps and (if you choose) around-neck baffles, warmth can be kept in and drafts out.
Then add in that for a given warmth, it’s considerably lighter and packs smaller and you have a match made in heaven – I think.
While some may wonder if the quilt is not as warm as a bag, that remains to be seen, but given it’s the loft of the fabric that gives warmth, any sleeping bag trapped between you and your mat isn’t adding any warmth anyway.
I found this Vesper for a good price (from the very helpful Ultra Light Outdoor Gear), and given I have no experience with any other camping quilts, just bought it.
The 7-degrees limit should be warm enough for my planned use and, at 399g on my scales, it’s nice and light.
Inside, there’s some hydrophobic down, so while not as weather-proof as a synthetically insulated bag, it should be a little more rugged than usual.
- £280 / $290
Scott Trail Storm Alpha Vest
Cycling gilets are one of those items of clothing that appear needless at first, and then you realise just how useful they are.
They keep your core warm, the wind off your torso, your armpits less sweaty and the spray off your chest, all in a lighter-weight, compact package.
This Trail Storm gilet from Scott uses Polartec Alpha material, which has a very furry inner, designed to trap heat effectively, while also being pretty breathable.
The outside utilises a two-way stretch, DWR-coated material to keep spray off, while also avoiding restricting your movement too much.
While road and all-round gilets exist, this one has more of a mountain-bike cut, according to Scott, that’s built to perform when you’re in your attack position.
The back is dropped low so you don’t get a builders-bum effect, while there’s a stretch panel at the side to keep it fitting well and reflective tabs to make sure you’re seen.
- £89.99 / €99.90