Ahh, the passing of time; both inevitable and ineffable, something that brings us neatly on to this week's serving of shiny new bikes and bits of kit. You know it as 11spd and so do we, at least until having yet another gear ratio on your bike becomes mainstream and we have to start all over again.
This week we prove that big is beautiful, get excited by mudguards and marvel at the graven image so, depending on location and preference, make yourself a tea/coffee and line up your biscuits/cookies and take a peek at it all below...
New mountain bike gear
Scott Spark Plus 700 Tuned
Oh, the life of a mountain bike tester is a tough one, especially on days like today when we have to slum it and force ourselves to go and ride bikes like this absolutely pimped out model of Scott’s brand new Spark platform. Only joking – it’s amazing. Feel free to read our Scott Spark 2017 launch story for the full low-down on the sheer amount of carbon fibre trickery that Scott has managed to shoe horn into the frame and how much weight it has scooped out, but safe to say, it’s a lot. This bike is of extra-special interest, coming shod with fat 2.8” Plus tyres, which may or may not be the future of everything mountain bike, depending on who you speak to and how much Kool Aid has been consumed by either party.
Anyway, designed to be a super fast trail bike rather than a flat out cross country racer, the Spark Plus gets a little more travel than the other bikes in the range, with 130mm up front and 120mm at the back. As you’d expect from the not inconsiderable asking price, you get a whole load of tip-top end kit. Fox provides the suspension, with an extra wide Boost version of its 34 fork and there’s a clever travel adjusting version of the Float DPS shock at the back. Both get a shiny and slippery Kashima coating and you can control them by simply lifting a finger and using a remote that’s integrated into the lock-on-grip, which also houses the control for the Fox Transfer dropper post. House brand Syncros provides most of the finishing kit and there’s lashings of carbon fibre there, too. We particularly like the cool-looking stem and spacers, which can be used with a neat GPS mount, too.
Providing both the go and the slow is kit from SRAM, namely a 12spd XX1 Eagle drivetrain with a walloping great 11-50T range and a pair of Level NX brakes with 180mm rotors. It’s good to see some reasonably aggressively treaded rubber, too, with a pair of tubeless-ready and reinforced Maxxis Rekon tyres. Whether they’re up to the coming muddy season is something we’ll be interested to find out. Either way, this bike won't be looking this clean for long.
£6499 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Lizard Skins Danny MacAskill signature grips
Ol’ MacMadskills seems to have caught the #enduro bug with his signature grips from Lizard Skins, going full fluro with these new, single-sided lock on grips - a first for Lizard Skins.
MacAskill joins other legendary riders such as Darren ‘Bearclaw’ Berecloth and Steve Pete with his signature grip from the US brand.
A new introduction for 2017, the grips feature a “larger diameter in key areas of the grip to provide better cushioning for impacts and vibration dampening”, obviously important if you’re regularly landing from heights as perilous as Danny does.
£21.99 / $29.99 / AU$36.50
Scott MTB RC Lace shoes
To match the lovely Scott Spark, we’ve also been sent some fine new shoes to wear when riding it, and very on trend they are, too, using laces instead of boring buckles to keep your feet in place. That means you can tweak the fit of the perforated synthetic upper to you heart’s content, while the business end of your foot is treated to an insole with adjustable arch support and a ‘metatarsal button’ that sits just behind the ball of your foot and is said to help reduce pain.
These aren’t lardy shoes made for just swanning about in, however, as the RC moniker indicates. Nope, they’re for going fast and trying hard, with a carbon fibre sole that’s rated as a 9 on Scott’s stiffness scale which predictably only goes up to 10. You do get a minimalist tread made from ‘Sticki’ rubber plus toe studs for when your weak, pathetic body can’t pedal any more and has to get off the bike and push.
£TBC / $199.99
Endura MT500 jacket
The jacket has seen a colour refresh for 2017 and we’re particularly taken by this handsome navy and purple option.The jacket retains the chunky, mud friendly zipper, silicon rucksack strap grippers, generous pit ventilation zips and voluminous, helmet friendly hood of old.
Expect us to put in some serious muddy miles beclothed in this waterproof-wonder during the damp winter months.
Paramo Velez Lightweight Smock
Continuing with the waterproof theme, we recently received the updated Paramo Velez Lightweight waterproof smock.
We first looked at the Velez back in 2009 and although there were a few niggles with that generation of the jacket, we’ve been generally impressed by Paramo’s offerings.
Paramo constructs its jackets out of its proprietary Nikwax Analogy waterproof fabric, a unique three layer, “directional” system which quickly wicks away sweat and condensation to the outer, breathable waterproof shell.
Although the retro, pull-over look won’t appeal to everyone, the generous kangaroo pouch style pocket makes it worthwhile in our eyes.
At £225, it’s certainly not the cheapest jacket out there, but for your dosh you do get an ethically produced jacket which is also backed up by a lifetime of aftercare.
We’ll be using the jacket this winter for bike packing trips as well as long distance, foul weather road riding. Watch this space. Australian and US pricing unavailable.
New road kit
Velo Orange hammered alloy mudguards
Believe it or not, it is possible to get excited by a set of mudguards.
Fresh Tripe, distributor of boutique American brand Velo Orange in the UK recently sent us through a set of these ‘ooh-shiny’, silver delights to try out over the next few - almost certainly damp - months.
While some will baulk at the idea of spending on £45 on a set of mudguards, they’re only about £15 more (at RRP) than a set of SKS chromoplastic guards, will last much longer than a set of plastic guards and look very, very cool.
The guards are available in a polished, fluted or hammered finish, in a variety of widths and sizes. Prices vary between £45 ($60) and £50 ($67) depending on the model you chose. Australian pricing unavailable.
Funded – like pretty much everything these days – on Kickstarter, the Litelok has been designed by an actual Professor of Innovation to marry two seemingly incompatible features; low weight and high security. Tipping our scales at 1111g, it has a Sold Secure Gold rating (which just happens to be the highest) and means the lock can fend of a solid five minutes of attack from tools commonly used to steal bikes. That’ll be extremely useful for anyone who doesn’t want to ride around carrying an ironmongers and also extremely upsetting for bike thieves.
The cunning Professor Barron – for that is his name - has managed this by coming up with a rather clever design that uses a flexible multi-layer material that’s been christened ‘Boaflexcore’. Having many layers means that the lock is able to withstand attack from pretty much all the tools your average tea leaf (a bit of Cockney rhyming slang for our American readers there) might bring to bear yet still wrap round things unlike a clunky U-lock.
The nylon outer casing is there to prevent scratching your bike and you get a pair of straps to secure it to your frame. It’s also possible to join two or more Liteloks together if you want to wrap them around something bigger. Most importantly for fashion conscious commuters, it comes in three fetching colours, with black and herringbone grey options as well as this snazzy green.
£85 / $103.98 / AU$135.96
Guy Andrews - Magnum Cycling
There’s been a glut of beautiful books passing through our offices recently, but this collection of cycling reportage by preeminent photography agency, Magnum has got to be one of the highlights so far.
Featuring photos from names as big as Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the images are faithfully reproduced in fantastic detail and are accompanied by insightful and interesting commentary by Guy Andrews, author of other cycling books such as The Custom Road Bike and Bike Mechanic.
Resident photography grad Jack has had his head buried in this beautiful book for days now and it will undoubtedly be making its way onto our cycling christmas gift buying guides this coming festive season.
Available from any good book shop for £32.99 ($50, Australian pricing TBA)
Howies Llaeth longsleeve jersey
Howies, producer of high quality, thoughtfully designed and simple outdoors wear recently sent us through one of its new Llaeth cycling jerseys.
Although the jersey is definitely race-oriented in its fit, Howies has made concessions for colder climes with a longer than usual cut on the front (for a race jersey) and generous, long arms.
Produced in Portugal, the synthetic jersey is delightfully soft against the skin and when paired with a baselayer, should make a great, cosy option for colder days on the bike. It comes in men's and women's versions.
The jersey is available in the black pictured here or in a rather handsome, green colour scheme and both are priced at £69.00. Howies doesn’t offer US or Australian pricing, but will ship internationally.
Wheels MFG Ceramic Bearings Bottom Brackets
The poor old bottom bracket rarely gets any love, but we at BikeRadar HQ are thrilled by even the most lowly of components.
However, to describe these beautifully machined, spinny-spinny beauties from Wheels MFG as anything lowly would be doing them a huge disservice.
Wheels MFG gets around the usual problems associated with press-fit bottom brackets by using its innovative, thread together design (yes, a threaded BB solving the woes of press-fit, the irony isn’t lost on us) to keep things tight and creak free.
We’ll be fitting a selection of these to our long-term bikes over the coming months and will report back on how we get on. In the meantime, we’ll just enjoy revelling in quite how smooth the ceramic bearings feel as we fettle with them on our desks.
The BBs vary in price, starting at about £99 ($125, AU$167) rising to £130 ($174, AU$271) depending on the model you go for.
Tech21 Evo Tactical XT iPhone 6S case
Are you a serial screen smasher? Is your lifestyle not compatible with the fragile nature of your expensive mobile phone? If the answer to either of the above is yes then this Evo Tactical XT case from Tech21 could well come in handy.
Separating into two pieces, this rubberised case is extremely easy and quick to fit. Once in place, Tech21 claims it offers protection for drops of up to 4m (13ft) while trap doors and tiny filters in the design prevent dust from entering the guts of your phone. Extended buttons plus large cutout sections mean using your phone’s screen, cameras, volume buttons, microphone or speakers shouldn’t be an issue while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals shouldn’t be impacted, either.
It’s not the cheapest product of its kind but it’s also significantly cheaper than a screen replacement. Versions are available for most popular smartphones including the new iPhone 7.
iPhone 6/6S version £39.95/ $35.99 / AU$49.95