Friday Five-a-side: this week’s new bike gear 06/02/15

Featuring FSA, Scott, Smith Optics, Panaracer, and more

Many of you may still be hunkered down for the winter but with the days already getting noticeably longer, it’s never too soon to start thinking about some new gear.


Here’s a look at what’s arrived at BikeRadar‘s Colorado office lately.

New road bike gear

Smith Optics Pivlock Arena Max sunglasses

The smith pivlock arena max sunglasses boast an extra-large lens for additional coverage:

The Pivlock Arena Max sunglasses feature an extra large lens for riders who want a little more coverage, a two-position nosepiece that lets you adjust how it sits on your face, and an oil- and water-resistant coating to help ensure that field of view stays clear, even when you’re dripping with sweat.

Unlike many other frameless designs, it’s still easy to swap out lenses thanks to Smith’s clever Pivlock system. Just rotate each earpiece up, snap them on to another lens, swap over the nosepiece, and you’re good to go. Even better, the Pivlock Arena Max’s relatively reasonable price includes three lenses (and a hard case) so you’ll always have the right tint on hand.

US$159 / £115 / €139 / AU$200

Scott Road Team Boa shoes

Scott continues to expand its shoe collection, here with the road team boa model that features a carbon fiber sole, slick boa-equipped uppers, and a semi-customizable footbed design:

Scott’s midrange Road Team Boa shoes feature stiff carbon fibre soles and microfibre uppers that wrap around your foot with Boa’s slick IP1 cable reel system – just turn the knob one way to tighten, the other way to incrementally loosen, or pull the knob out to release the tension completely. You can even route the wire through an additional loop if want an extra-snug fit across the midfoot.

Welded-in vents up top help keep your feet cool, plus there’s a functional scoop in the outsole underneath your toes. Meanwhile, the Scott ErgoLogic insole features swappable arch and metatarsal inserts that let you fine tune the fit without resorting to aftermarket footbeds.

Our pair of size 42 shoes weighs 576g.

US$175 / £TBC / €TBC / AU$250

FSA Team Issue 11-speed chain

FSA says its new 11-speed team issue chain runs smoother and last longer than the best from shimano, sram, and campagnolo:

Full Speed Ahead has a new chain factory in Taiwan, and the company is making some heady claims about the chains that are being produced there. Thanks to more advanced metallurgical techniques, FSA says its new Team Issue 11-speed chain offers improved strength, decreased deformation, and better wear than Shimano, SRAM, or Campagnolo have to offer. What that means to you – if the claims hold true – is longer service life, fewer broken links, and even potentially better shifting and quieter running.

Even more interesting is what this could mean for the persistent rumours that FSA has a complete drivetrain in development.

“We already have chainrings, cassettes, chains, and derailleurs,” said FSA managing director Lance Bohlen. “The next logical step is a complete drivetrain.”

It weighs 269g including the reusable master link.

US$40 / £24 / €54 / AU$N/A

AfterShokz Bluez 2 headphones

Unlike conventional headphones that sit on or in your ears, the aftershokz bluez 2 bone conduction headphones leave your ear canals open to hear outside noises:

Donning a pair of earbuds may be a great way to listen to music while riding but there are also risks associated with voluntarily shutting out the outside world. As an alternative, AfterShokz Bluez 2 bone conduction headphones bypass your eardrums entirely and transmit sound through your skull into your inner ear, leaving your outer ear open to better hear surrounding traffic, other riders, and pedestrians. While wearing the previous-generation AfterShokz wireless headphones, we’ve even still been able hear tyres rolling across the ground during trail rides (at medium volumes, no less).

This latest version improves on the original with a reshaped headband for better security, waterproof rubber gaskets and nanotech coating to ward off sweat and water, and noticeably richer sound quality. And as an added bonus, there’s also a built-in noise canceling microphone for taking phone calls (assuming you prefer to remain on the grid while riding), a six-hour claimed run time from the USB-recharge Li-ion battery, and even voice prompts to guide you through various setup menus.

US$100 / £90 / €90 / AU$130

Allen Sports ASL5XR front and rear lights

Allen Sports' ASL5XR lights pack some impressive claimed outputs for a reasonable price
Allen sports’ asl5xr lights pack some impressive claimed outputs for a reasonable price:
James Huang / Immediate Media

The Allen Sports ASL5XR front light features a 280-lumen output (claimed), rechargeable Li-ion battery, and a beam that easily adjusts between spot and flood patterns. The matching rear has a much more modest five-lumen output but uses conventional coin cell batteries instead of a rechargeable setup. Both affix to strap-type mounts that should work on a wide range of tube shapes and sizes and require no tools for installation.

Although the ASL5XR perhaps can’t quite match the category leaders in terms of technical features and refinement, the O-ring sealed aluminium housings look decidedly high-end and the pricing simply can’t be beaten.

US$55 / £N/A / €N/A / AU$N/A

New mountain bike gear

FSA K-Force disc brakes

We’ve already confirmed that the new fsa k-force disc brakes are pretty light. now let’s see how well they work:

The Full Speed Ahead K-Force hydraulic disc brakes pack in all the features you’d expect from a top-end hydraulic mountain bike disc brake: independently (and tool-free) adjustable reach and contact point, carbon fibre lever blades, magnesium master cylinders and one-piece calipers, titanium hardware, and stainless steel hose fittings. FSA even uses different front and rear hoses in an effort to match the lever feel.

The weight of a complete front set is 335g including all mounting hardware and a standard 160mm-diameter stainless steel rotor.

US$369 / £230 / €299 / AU$N/A (per wheel, without rotor)

Panaracer Quasi-Moto and Fire 27.5 Pro tyres

Panaracer has revamped its classic fire xc pro tread design, adapting it for the new crop of 27.5in wheels:

Panaracer pegs the Quasi-Moto for hardpacked and loose conditions with its array of widely spaced but relatively short knobs. A supple 120tpi casing and narrow 2.0in width keep the weight down to just 537g.

Long-time mountain bikers will likely recognise the tread pattern on the Fire 27.5 Pro, which adapts the classic Fire XC Pro tyre for today’s crop of ‘tweener machines. The stepped full-height knobs, well supported shoulder knobs, tubeless compatibility, and girthy 2.35in width bring the weight up to 821g but if history repeats itself as promised, this should be a very versatile tyre for a wide range of conditions.

US$50 / £35 / €TBC / AU$TBC

45NRTH Vanhelga fat bike tyres

The 45nrth vanhelga features an impressive amount of high-tech features for a fat bike tire, including dual compound rubber, siped knobs, a tubeless ready design, and a supple 120tpi casing:

45NRTH brings a healthy dose of modern tech to its new Vanhelga fat bike tyres, gracing the 4in wide meats with dual-compound rubber, a relatively supple 120tpi casing, and smooth rubber-coated beads for tubeless conversions that are not only easier to set up but also more secure when paired with compatible rims.

The widely spaced knobbed are notably tall to help penetrate into packed snow and the knobs are also generously siped for extra biting edges.

So far, the Vanhelga is proving to be much faster rolling than its appearance might suggest and grip is indeed prodigious on a wide mix of surfaces. They weigh 1,213g each.

US$155 / £TBC / €TBC / AU$TBC

Mindshift Rotation 180° Trail camera pack

Undo the easily accessible buckle, rotate the lower compartment around your waist, and instantly access your camera gear – all without having to completely remove the pack altogether:

Mindshift’s Rotation 180° Trail differs from other trail-friendly camera packs in that it ingeniously allows you to access your camera gear without having to remove the entire pack. Simply undo the clever magnetic buckle, rotate the lower part of the pack around your waist (in bum bag style), and unzip the top. The camera compartment is only big enough for a medium-sized DSLR body and one modest lens but for most users, that’ll likely suffice for quick on-the-trail shots.

Up top, there’s room for a two-litre hydration bladder (which unfortunately isn’t included), a modestly sized main compartment for extra layers, food, and tools, stretch exterior pockets for other items, and an attachment point for a rear LED flasher.

We’ve only just started using our Rotation 180° Trail recently but it’s fast becoming a staple for work-related rides when a point-and-shoot just won’t do.

US$180 / £183 / €180 / AU$229

Mountainsmith Bike Cube Deluxe

The mountainsmith bike cube deluxe is designed to help make sure you actually have all of your gear when arrive at the trailhead:

Anyone who regularly has to drive to a trailhead likely also likely has a story about forgetting a key piece of gear at home. Mountainsmith aims to fix that with its Bike Cube Deluxe, a handy gear hauler designed to keep all of your stuff organised, protected, easily visible, and – most importantly – on hand once you’ve arrived at your destination.

Key features include dedicated compartments for helmets, shoes, clothing, and eyewear, a changing mat so you don’t have to stand in the dirt, and a roll-up tool organiser that neatly stashes in its own nylon bay, and lots of interior pockets for smaller bits. Vented panels in key areas help your gear from stinking too.

It’s not perfect – it isn’t big enough for a hydration pack, for example – and it’s quite expensive, but we’re already finding it useful.

US$80 / £TBC / €TBC / AU$TBC