It's been a big week on BikeRadar: we've crowned our Trail Bike of the Year and our Road Bike of the Year, plus we've marvelled at some beautiful custom machines at Bespoked 2018, and we've enjoyed all that is weird and wonderful at this year's Sea Otter.
Russell took a look at an intriguing solution to the problem of running a belt drive without splitting your frame, while Matthew was out unicorn-spotting and came back with a 2018 bike that's actually cheaper and better specced than its 2017 predecessor.
Read on for our round-up of the latest bikes and kit to turn up at BikeRadar HQ...
Tailfin T1 carbon pannier rack and SL pannier bags
We first saw the Tailfin — a fancy, super-light, carbon pannier rack that fits to any bike — way back in 2016.
The rack clamps onto a custom axle that has two small extensions machined onto either end. Unlike the first sample of the rack, the Tailfin is now available with axles that will work with any of the four most common thru-axle standards.
Swapping out the stock thru-axle to fit the to Jack’s Rose X-Lite test bike (excuse the muddy wheels, they’re the result of an ill-advised shortcut) was very easy. Likewise, the locking ladder strap clamp on the seatpost is very secure and simple to use.
The panniers themselves and the machined brackets that attach them to the rack are very nicely made and very lightweight. If you don’t like the look of the stock bags, Tailfin also sells a set of boosters, which make the rack compatible with regular pannier bags.
Prices start at £249 for the rack alone, rising to £319 for a combined rack and pannier package.
- T1 rack: £249 / $349 / AU$449
- T1 rack + panniers: £319 / $449 / AU$579
A Corinthian Endeavour: The Story of the National Hill Climb
Here at BikeRadar we're big fans of the strange niche sport of hill climbing. It mainly takes place in the UK and consists of incredibly painful individual time trials up, you guessed it, short, sharp hills.
If you want to learn more about this curious world then Paul Jones has you covered with an updated version of A Corinthian Endeavour — The Story of the National Hill Climb Championship.
It plots the history, characters and locations of the national hill climb championship, which always takes place on the last weekend in October. There's also plenty of brilliant photos of various hill climb legends gurning their way up impossibly steep gradients.
If you're interested in cycling history, or just love riding up hills, then A Corinthian Endeavour is well worth a look.
- £13.95 / $24 / AU$TBC
Exa-Form Speed Up Dropper Post
You might not have heard of Exa-Form, but it's a sister company to KS which has long been in the dropper post game. While KS posts go from mid-price to high-price, Exa-Form is definitely in the budget game.
The Speed Up must be one of the most simple dropper posts out there. There's no hydraulic cartridge in there, rather the infinite travel post has a mechanical lock on the travel.
There's also no internal spring to talk of — push down, pull up. As you can see, there's also no remote, this is a dropper that lets you get back to grips with your Michael Jackson crotch grabbing skills.
What might be surprising is the low weight. Our 150mm travel version weighs just 513 grams, a good 80–150 grams lighter than most, though they do have a remote.
The single spring-loaded bolt head is perhaps the easiest we've used to fit a saddle to in recent times, though it remains to be seen how reliable the indented angle adjust is. The stack height is also low at around 50mm.
Exa-Form says that all this makes it ideal for those looking for a cheap, reliable dropper.
The post comes in both 30.9 and 31.6mm diameters, with 125mm, 150mm and 175mm options
- £85 / $99 / AU$TBC
Crank Brothers Mallet DH Super Bruni
The Mallet DH isn't new, but it's damn popular. And, handily, so is Loic Bruni, one of the world's best downhillers who rides said pedals.
As such, the two have combined forces and created a special edition 'Super Bruni' version for fans of the French pinner.
As you'd expect, there's all the regular facets of the Mallet DH: interchangeable traction pads for improved feel, fancy bearings and seals, Crank Bros signature egg-beater mechanism, chamfered edges and adjustable pins.
We've not seen them available for sale yet, but they're definitely coming!
- £150 / $169 / AU$200
Sixth Element SE34.28RACE Wheelset
The name might not roll off the tongue, but it's certainly descriptive. Sixth Element's latest wheels are built for racing and have a 34mm outer width and 28mm inner.
Sixth Element build its carbon-rimmed wheels in the UK and focus on that market. The Hope hubs on our build are built into the asymmetric rims with Sapim D Light spokes and, obviously, both current freehub and wheel size options are present.
The unidirectional and hookless carbon rims are asymmetric to give equal tension between drive and non-driveside spokes, which Sixth Element says gives the strongest build possible.
The wheels are built, true'd and tested, then left to rest, before being tested again and tweaked if necessary. They also come with what Sixth Element says is a no quibble guarantee for two years and a crash replacement service — £275 per wheel, including rebuild within three years.
To finish off the package is a valve and Stan's tape already fitted, along with green, white or black decals — custom colours can be added for £99.
Our wheelset weighs 1,785g — 835g at the front, 950g at the back. Sixth Element will ship Europe-wide, and 650b and 29in wheels cost the same.
POC Coron Air Carbon SPIN
Minimalist style is combined with POC's almost legendary protection in its latest top of the line full-face lid.
We published a news story a few weeks ago, but finally have one in the office to play with!
The outer is constructed with carbon to help keep the weight to a feathery 1,104g (M/L), while inside there's a multi-impact EPP liner for maximum protection.
POC has split from MIPS, but integrate its SPIN technology, which similarly helps reduce the forces involved in oblique impacts. The pads inside also have a sliding layer to further aid safety, while the bolts holding the visor are designed to break away during a crash.
Inside there's channelling for better ventilation, while the chin bar has a decent sized vent to help keep your face cool.
While the lid is pretty darn pricey, its light weight and impressive safety credentials suggest this should become one of the most sought after full face helmets on the market — Troy Lee Designs' D3 Carbon should look out!
- £410 / $450 / AU$TBC
Black Mountain Pinto
Now this has got to be one of the coolest kids bikes around and not just for the street-cred your little nipper will get, but also the cash it might save you in the long-run.
Yes, this little bike is actually three-in-one because it'll grow with your child.
In 'Mode 1' the bike is a little scoot-along bike, rolling on 14in hoops. There's a V brake and skinny bars and grips to, er, help your kid get to grips with the concept of balance and stopping.
Then, by adding the crankset and extended seat tube the bike transforms into a little singlespeed bike 'Mode 2', to replace the usual 12in bike. It's sized properly for smaller kids in this mode, partly thanks to a reversible seat clamp on the seat post, which has high and low settings.
The drivetrain is based around a belt drive system, which should keep clothes a bit cleaner, and is a chunk lighter than a traditional chain drive.
Finally, when your child has grown yet further, un-do a few bolts and reconfigure the frame in to its largest size. You can then add a ratio expander to the belt drive drivetrain to give a slightly harder gear for stronger legs.
The bike looks incredibly well put-together, with plenty of neat design touches such as the aforementioned seat post head, and the use of bushings in the frame joins for a smooth, quiet ride.
When your child finally grows out of the Pinto, they can then upgrade to the Skøg 16in bike!
Cube Travel SL hybrid
We love a practical commuter here at BikeRadar and the Travel SL looks perfect for city riding.
Out of the box it’s fitted with mudguards, a very tidy looking pannier rack and a hub dynamo which powers permanently mounted front and rear lights.
A belt drive combined with an 8-speed Shimano Alfine hub makes for a clean-running, super low maintenance drivetrain, while the low-key paintjob doesn’t draw too much attention to the sensible alloy frame.
This 58cm bike isn’t light at 13.8kg, but that’s not bad considering the amount of kit it comes fitted with as standard. You’ll have no trouble bringing it to a halt either, thanks to proper hydraulic discs.
Topeak Shuttle Gauge Digital
Are you precious about pressures? The Shuttle Digital is a pressure gauge which can be used as a standalone device, or mounted inline between your pump and whatever you’re inflating.
It’s a neat little device with an easy to read screen and it works up to 300psi. Topeak says it’s for tyres, shocks and forks, although the head design means you’d struggle with the last of those as most forks don’t have sufficient clearance around the valve.
- £49.99 / $64.95
Waldo Vitamin contact lenses
These contact lenses from direct sale firm Waldo are supposed to be more comfortable than those offered to you by your local optician — that’s thanks to them being submerged in a vitamin solution that’s designed to leave eyes feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Waldo lenses also arrive at a price that may well save you cash over your existing contact lens plan.
Dep editor Oli has been trying them out over the past month or so and has noticed a real improvement over the daily lenses supplied by his regular Specsavers plan. Previously, he’s found problems with streaming eyes during rides without eye protection and has found these to have been a real help.
They’re available for people with prescriptions ranging from -12 through to +4.
- £16 / €19 for a box of 30
Bridgedale Stormsock waterproof socks
Perhaps not the most timely of products given recent weather, but waterproof socks are a godsend in the wet.
Bridgedale’s Stormsock is constructed in a similar manner to the likes of Sealskinz and Dexshell, with a fully waterproof membrane layer.
There’s a more conventional boot sock version costing £5 less, but this knee-length option is hilariously over the top — they’re tall enough to ford small rivers.
The Stormsocks look perfect for UK winters when roads and trails are complete mud baths. They’ll be available to buy from next month, and we look forward to trying them out come the autumn.
- £45 / $TBC
- www.bridgedale.com (not yet on site)