Ho, ho, ho – and Merry Christmas! We hope you and your family have had a great year. It's our holiday hope to bring you continued tidings of great riding… and shiny new riding gear. To that end, here are 11 pieces of hot riding kit that have landed in our snowbound Colorado offices.
New road bike gear
SRM PowerControl 8
Battery life on the alloy-shelled unit is good – especially if you turn off the GPS and extend it up to a claimed 45 hours. Memory capacity is also great, with a claimed 4,000 hours of training logged.
However, the appeal of the product is highly limited, as the GPS serves primarily as a retrospective tracking feature by recording your trail. There are no maps, much less turn-by-turn options like you can find on many Garmin units.
This tiny unit looks into your calf muscle with LED lights to gauge muscle oxygenation. Based on the readings of light reflection, the BSX Insight gives you a SMO2 number on a smartphone app or a paired ANT+ head unit.
The BSX Insight can also give you a lactate threshold test, when used in conjunction with a power meter and a trainer.
So, what the heck do you do with SMO2 data? The short answer is, BSX Insight and high-level teams around the world are still looking into it. In our initial testing, we’ve found the readings to vary substantially day to day, with average SMO2 being between 55 and 85%.
Specialized Air Tool Pro
This isn’t a new product but a second chance. We loved our Air Tool Pro pump for well over a year until it gave out on us, sputtering instead of pumping. While others have had better luck with the non-rebuildable alloy pump, we are giving the sturdy tool another go.
The head switches between Schrader and Presta, and the long hose makes for easy connections. A spare rubber seal is included.
The large dial is easy to read for PSI or BAR, and the pressure-relief valve on the handle is a nice touch for fine-tuning your pressure.
$120 / £120
Tacx Neo Pro
The challenger to Wahoo’s Kickr, the Neo Pro smart trainer works on ANT+ and Bluetooth to interact with third-party software such as Zwift, TrainerRoad of VeloReality.
There are two main advantages to this smart trainer interactivity: hills are simulated (both up and down), and training loads can be applied exactly. Need to do two 20-minute FTP intervals at 295w with rest at 100w in between? A smart trainer will generate this resistance for you, so you just pick a gear and pedal.
The Neo Pro is substantially more expensive than the Kickr, but also somewhat quieter.
$1,599 / £1,199
The upstart Aussie operation offers custom-tailored training plans and a platform that plays well with all the major training tools and even a few obscure metrics like SMO2.
You can use the software for its analytics, or buy a plan that is customised to fit the available time to you have to train any given day.
In addition to a raft of graphs, the software has user friendly features like parsing through all your uploaded data and identifying your functional threshold power.
From $8 / £5 / AU$10 per month
Alé PRR Thermal Winter Jacket
This jacket is one of those jersey/jacket ’tweener pieces that does double duty. Windproof chest and front sleeve panels keep the wind from biting, but the thermal fleece material on the body keeps the whole thing breathable.
The fit is race-cut. We’ve worn it with short- and long-sleeve baselayers, but there isn’t much room for more layers. Happily, for days down to freezing you don’t need anything but a baselayer and this jacket.
Reflectivity striping works with the hi-vis styling for visibility.
$260 / £160
New mountain bike gear
Bontrager fat bike tyres
The tyre fairy dropped off some hefty fat bike treads at at BikeRadar’s Colorado office, which is great since we’ve been getting pummeled with powder the past few weeks. It’s clear the crew at Bontrager have been having fun naming their fat bike tyres. Each takes its name from a mythical creature.
From Swiss folklore, a small, long-bearded man covered in white fur with enormous feet. They’re rumoured to only emerge from their lairs after the first snowfall.
The Barbegazi tyre may lack white fur, but is massive, 26x4.7in volume should help it float over unpacked snow.
$120 / £90 / Not available in Australia
From Cajun folklore, a beast of the swamps that resembles a werewolf and has a thirst for blood. The 26x3.8in Rougarou is designed to be fat but fast. It features six rows of low-profile knobs to balance grip and rolling resistance. It’s intended to excel on hardpacked dirt and groomed snow.
$120 / £90 /Not available in Australia
Okay, so not all of Bontrager’s fat bike tyres are named after fictitious creatures. The narwhals are very real, but adding “gnar” to these treads just make sense. The gnarwhal is a 26x3.8in tyre that comes in a studded version for the ultimate bite in icy conditions, or a lighter non-studded version.
We’re testing the non-studded version, which still features plenty of tall knobs with ample sipping to maximise grip.
$120 / £90 /Not available in Australia
Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch II
Pearl’s trail / enduro shoe recently underwent a top to bottom redesign. The new X-Alp Launch II uses a micro-adjustable Boa dial with a toe strap to fine tune fit. A carbon-injected composite shank keeps the Alp-X Launch II firm under pedalling, while an EVA foam midsole provides cushioning when hike-a-biking. Under all that is a grippy rubber sole with plenty of lugs to provide traction when scrambling up rocks.
The Alp-X Launch II comes in both men’s and women’s version. The weight for a size 43 is 380g.
$160 / £110 / AUS $220
Leatt Airflex Pro knee guards
The Airflex is Leatt’s slim line of soft protective gear. The new Airflex Pro pads build on the success of the minimalist 3DF Airflex pads by adding 6mm-thick padding to the sides and top of the knee.
The Airflex Pro is held in place with silicone grippers on the top of the sleeve as well as the kneecup. Leatt offers these CE-certified kneepads in S, M, L, XL and XXL sizes.
$79 / £65 / AUS $130
Paul Components has a long history of making high quality cantilever and linear pull brakes. This American manufacturer recently added a mechanical disc brake to its line.
The Klamper uses a single-sided arm that pivots on a set of bearings to engage the rotor. The design is similar to the Avid/SRAM BB7 disc brake.
Paul offers the Klamper in silver and black and in both long and short-pull versions. Paul also sells the actuator arms separately, so riders can swap them for mountain and road/cyclocross use.
$179 / £120 / AU $256 (price per caliper)
Last year we reviewed the Surly Ice Cream Truck. It’s a beast of a bike, capable floating over any terrain.
Unlike the Ice Cream Truck, the Wednesday isn’t designed to fit the largest tyres on the largest rims. It uses the smaller 170x12mm rear thru-axle standard and a more pedal-friendly 100mm-wide bottom bracket shell. It’s a bit more nimble, with trail-oriented geometry and the ability to run a 100mm suspension fork and the option to run an internally-routed seatpost.Like all of Surly's models, the Wednesday is constructed from 4130 chromoly steel tubing.
$1499 / £TBC / AUS TBC